Max, Mets exercise caution after side fatigue prompts exit

Showalter on Scherzer: 'We're hopeful he can make his next start'

September 4th, 2022

NEW YORK -- For Max Scherzer, a milestone win is proving elusive. Now for the sake of a Mets team hoping to ride Scherzer deep into October, they hope it won’t be too long before he gets another bite at that apple.

Shades of the oblique issue that shelved Scherzer for about seven weeks earlier in the year cropped up again Saturday night, casting a cloud over the Mets’ 7-1 loss to the Nationals at Citi Field. Scherzer exited after five innings and 67 pitches due to left side fatigue in what he and the Mets both characterized as a precautionary move, aimed at keeping the three-time Cy Young winner healthy for the stretch run.

Asked specifically if he expected to make his next start, which was already scheduled to come on extra rest, Scherzer said he would.

“I don’t have any strains,” Scherzer said. “The left side was just getting more tired than usual. This was a precautionary move, considering the history of the oblique. Was there a scenario where I could go out there and pitch the sixth and be OK? Yeah. That could’ve happened. But if I went out for the sixth and got hurt, I could never come in here and look the guys in the face and say I made the right decision. It was better to be safe than sorry in this scenario.”

Said manager Buck Showalter: “He didn’t ask to come out. We didn’t think it was a good idea to push it, and we’re hopeful he can make his next start.”

Seeking career win No. 200 for the third time, Scherzer showed no outward signs of duress while completing five innings of one-run ball against his former team. But Scherzer began to feel his left side drag in the fourth inning, alerting Showalter after the sensation didn’t dissipate in the fifth. That was all the Mets needed to hear. They proceeded with an abundance of caution, aware of Scherzer’s injury history and what he will mean to the club over the coming weeks and months. Hence the alarm bells that echoed through Queens when Tommy Hunter replaced Scherzer to begin the sixth in a 1-1 game. 

“I didn’t hurt myself,” Scherzer clarified. "There was nothing that happened. Nothing tightened up. Just had general fatigue overall on my left side. That is where you can run into an injury, when you're pitching through fatigue. So that was the reason to come out."

Scherzer was actually at his most efficient just before exiting, having retired seven straight and the side on 10 pitches in the fifth. Later, he stressed that the issue was fundamentally different from the oblique strain that sidelined Scherzer from mid-May to early July. The concern for him and for the Mets was how the fatigue impacted the same area.

The 38-year-old had been operating at full tilt since returning from that early strain, averaging 6 2/3 innings and 98 pitches per start over his past 11 starts. He’d also been enormously effective in those outings, pitching to a 2.10 ERA with 89 strikeouts. Scherzer pitched into the seventh in nine of those starts, and completed six innings in the other two.

“Max is very good about understanding the big picture,” Showalter said. “He’s as good as it gets. That’s why he’s done the things he’s done as far as knowing himself. He didn't need to come out of the game. He’s very frank about what he was feeling, and we reacted to what a really good pitcher that knows himself said.”

As a result, Scherzer was long gone by the time Adam Ottavino coughed up Lane Thomas’ go-ahead homer in the eighth, sinking the Mets on a night they mustered little against Patrick Corbin. Atlanta’s win in Miami then shaved New York’s lead over the Braves in the National League East to two games, with 28 games to play. The remaining schedule gives a healthy Scherzer as many as six more regular-season starts. How many he ends up making might go a long way toward deciding the division.

“I just couldn't take any risks, especially where the calendar is at,” Scherzer said. “There is no time left to re-ramp back up. I think that played just as important a factor in coming out after five.”