PHILADELPHIA -- Despite it being arguably one of the most unusual starts of Max Scherzer's 14-year career, the Nationals ace returned to the mound Thursday and pitched like, well ... Max Scherzer.
The right-hander allowed only three hits while tossing six innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 win against the Phillies in the opener of a straight seven-inning doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park. He earned his 92nd win as a member of the Nationals, thanks in part to Yan Gomes, who clubbed a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning in his first game action since July 9.
Scherzer's start came just one hour after the Nats had made a series of roster moves to account for their 13 positive COVID-19 tests (four players, nine staff members). It also came with Minor League coach Sam Narron serving as his pitching coach (regular pitching coach Jim Hickey was among five coaches who were unavailable).
Making his first start in 11 days, Scherzer may have pitched in his final game with the Nationals, who are working on a deal to send him to the Dodgers, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. The club has not confirmed.
“It's just crazy, everything just happened,” Scherzer said. “That's the thing about baseball: You can never script it out. You can think you have everything about baseball figured out, and then it just throws all these curveballs at you -- figuratively and literally. You've just got to deal with it.”
Scherzer has been one of the most talked-about names ahead of Friday's 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline. Thus, there was no guarantee he’d even be in a Nationals uniform come first pitch on Thursday -- and, even if he was, if the organization would risk sending him to the mound while potentially fielding offers from other clubs. It became increasingly clear that the Nationals are willing to make deals this week when closer Brad Hand was traded to the Blue Jays just moments after Scherzer threw his first pitch.
"I'm human, so I get it. I understand what's going on. It is what it is,” Scherzer said. “I've never been in this situation in my career, going through all the hoopla right now. Today was just a chance to get challenged and have to block all that out, and go out there and just compete and try to find a way to win."
Thursday marked Scherzer's first appearance since being scratched from Saturday's scheduled start against the Orioles due to right triceps discomfort.
He showed no signs of any lingering issues against the Phillies, striking out five and walking three while throwing 88 pitches (56 strikes). Scherzer, who had said he felt the triceps discomfort when he was batting as opposed to when he was pitching, also took three cuts against Phillies starter Zack Wheeler. Scherzer, who said "everything feels great," whiffed on two of the offerings and fouled off another while going 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts.
“You've got everything in the world to try to distract you and everything you have to deal with -- things you never even in a million years thought you'd have to deal with -- but guess what? You have to deal with it,” Scherzer said. “So just put a smile on your face and go out there and compete.”