ARLINGTON -- On Oct. 15, 2011, Max Scherzer took the mound at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series as a member of the Detroit Tigers.
That night, Scherzer allowed six runs over just 2 1/3 innings in what was eventually a 15-5 Rangers win. That would be the last ALCS game played in Arlington for the next 12 years.
Scherzer is four clubs and three Cy Young Awards removed from that Tigers team that fell short of the World Series, and the Rangers are a rebuild and an entirely new baseball stadium removed from that iconic 2011 team.
And now, on Wednesday in Game 3, Scherzer will again take the mound in the ALCS, this time as a member of the Rangers in his postseason debut for the club. Texas is looking to take a 3-0 lead over the Astros in the best-of-seven series after taking the first two games at Minute Maid Park.
“That's what he’s here for,” said first baseman Nathaniel Lowe. “Max is here to make this kind of start.”
Scherzer, who was acquired in a Trade Deadline deal with the Mets, has been sidelined since Sept. 13 with a low-grade strain of the teres major muscle in his right shoulder. He had thrown 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Toronto the day before but was removed from the game with what the team called right triceps spasms.
After the diagnosis, Scherzer said he gave himself one day to mope and be upset about the injury before he set his mind on making a return.
“When this injury happened, we were in that four-to-six-week window,” Scherzer said. “You definitely knew the regular season was out of play. The next day [I was] back to grinding, because I knew we had a team that could compete with anybody. There was a chance I could come back [in time for the postseason], and I was going to do everything I could to put myself in position to make that on the four-week side.
“And here we are. You can never quit in baseball. You can never try to predict baseball. You have to go out every single day and do something about that. And fortunately that's playing great in my hand.”
Manager Bruce Bochy said Scherzer was lobbying hard for the past week to be able to get back on the mound. He was almost successful ahead of the AL Division Series against the Orioles. Scherzer threw his first successful live BP ahead of Game 1 of that series, but Bochy and the coaching staff feared a potential setback that would prevent him from pitching in the ALCS if he was activated too early.
“I was realistic,” Scherzer said of advocating for his return. “I was just having conversations with what I felt I could do, where I was in the process. So I want to pitch. I want the ball. That's just how I tick. So, yeah, I'm always going to have conversations to try to get back.”
Amidst the excitement of Scherzer’s return is the uncertainty of what he can fully give the Rangers at this point.
In his most recent live batting-practice session on Saturday, Scherzer threw between 65-70 pitches, which Bochy said would be the starting point for his Game 3 appearance. If Scherzer is feeling good and working quickly, the staff isn’t opposed to letting him go further.
Scherzer admitted that he’s not entirely sure how he’ll feel on the mound after being sidelined for as long as he was, but he’s ready to go out and compete and help the Rangers win.
“I realize the challenges I have for tomorrow, but it's my job to navigate it and make the best of it,” Scherzer said. “Postseason starts are always precious. There's no one way to say it. You're playing for a ring. When you get to this point in the year, like I said, this is what you dream of, all the sacrifices you make in your life, all the hard work you put throughout the offseason is to get to this moment, to get to this spot. So here we are.”