Fedde boosts rotation with six scoreless frames

August 6th, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- During the middle of a game this past weekend in Arizona, approached in the Nationals’ dugout, looking for help.

“Man, my cutter stinks right now,” Fedde recalled himself saying to Scherzer. “What do you got for me?”

Scherzer and Fedde proceeded to have a 10-minute conversation to help fix Fedde’s cutter, a talk that paid dividends in a 4-0 Nationals victory over the Giants on Monday night at Oracle Park.

Fedde rebounded from perhaps the worst start of his career, when he surrendered nine runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Braves last time out, with one of his best. He scattered six hits and did not walk a batter throughout six shutout innings.

“I needed a bounce back,” Fedde said.

Fedde usually has success when he is able to locate his sinker down the strike zone, which he did in this outing. But he also credited his success with the ability to play his sinker off his cutter. In recent outings, Fedde had had trouble locating his cutter and throwing it for strikes consistently, which he felt like got him into hitters counts too often. On Monday, he mixed in 14 cutters during his 75-pitch outing and used the pitch to keep Giants hitters off-balance.

Fedde finished off five at-bats with a cutter, and San Francisco went hitless in those five at-bats.

“I think it made the difference today,” Fedde said. “When you have a guy like that [Scherzer] on your team, why not use him?”

Fedde has learned to lean on the veterans in this Nationals rotation when he struggles on the mound. He has sought out Anibal Sanchez for help on his changeup, Stephen Strasburg often gives pointers after Fedde’s outings and Scherzer offered advice to help Fedde rebound from a disaster last time out.

Fedde, of course, is currently filling in the rotation spot left vacant by Scherzer, who is on the injured list while recovering from a rhomboid strain in his upper back. Scherzer has played catch on flat ground in recent days but is still yet to throw off a bullpen mound and still needs to show some improvement before he does so.

Scherzer’s absence for now provides an opportunity for Fedde, especially if he can seize the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation.

“He came in, and he was focused today,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He had good stuff today, so I told him, ‘Hey, let’s build off of that and in five days be ready to go again.’”

For the first time in months, since they turned their season around from a disastrous start in the first 50 games, the Nationals arrived in San Francisco in the midst of a losing skid. They have dropped the past three series and had lost seven of 10 games, cooling off what had been the hottest team in baseball for two months.

The start of this cooling trend coincided with Scherzer’s latest trip to the injured list, and in the 10 games leading up to Monday’s game, the rotation had posted a 6.00 ERA. Starting pitching is the backbone of this club, but the Nationals have been pleading for more nights like this one from Fedde, where he keeps them in the game and allows their offense and revamped bullpen to do the rest.

A night like Monday helped Fedde turn the page on his last start and give the Nats a reason to be encouraged while he fills a rotation spot going forward.

“Today makes it a lot easier to take,” Fedde said. “Baseball's a game where [a bad start’s] going to happen. You just got to brush it off as fast as you can, and that's what I tried to do.”