Amped Max in LA debut: 10 K's, curtain call
LOS ANGELES -- Max Scherzer let out a roar as he blew a 96 mph fastball past Chas McCormick on his 109th and final pitch of his outing, sending a packed Dodger Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
Scherzer was welcomed back to the home dugout by plenty of high fives and smiles from his new teammates. As the cheers at Chavez Ravine intensified, Clayton Kershaw encouraged Scherzer to get back out there for a much-deserved curtain call. Scherzer obliged, sending the 52,724 fans into another uproar.
It was Scherzer’s first taste of the Dodger Stadium crowd as a member of the Dodgers, and it was even better than advertised. The future Hall of Famer allowed two runs and struck out 10 in the 7-5 win over the Astros on Wednesday. Scherzer became the seventh pitcher to strike out 10 or more in his first start as a Dodger since the team moved to Los Angeles.
“The crowd was definitely into it and you can feed off that, you definitely get some adrenaline from that,” Scherzer said. “To go out there and pitch well and to have the fans ask for a curtain call for me, I’ve never had that happen, so that’s a cool moment and something I’ll never forget.”
Scherzer had everything working, throwing a blazing fastball that averaged 95.2 mph, a full tick higher than it’s been all season. He paired it with a dominant curveball, changeup, slider and cutter combination. Of his 109 pitches, 73 were strikes, and he got 17 swings and misses.
He also wasted no time in becoming a fan favorite, striking out Jose Altuve on four pitches to start the game. In fact, Scherzer struck out Altuve three times, becoming just the third pitcher to accomplish the feat and first since Zack Greinke did it in 2017.
“That was vintage Scherzer,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “He had his slider working, he was throwing 94-97, and he had a good changeup. Scherzer can pitch. It’s no secret about that, but our at-bats were pretty good. But Scherzer is pretty good.”
Like Baker said, Altuve wasn’t the only one who struggled against Scherzer. After giving up a solo homer to Michael Brantley in the first, Scherzer quickly locked it back in, retiring the next nine batters he faced. He ended his night on a similar streak, retiring nine of the last 11 he faced.
“That was amazing,” said Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts of Scherzer’s performance. “Finally being on the same side and then being able to play second base to kind of see everything and how he works, that was just a great thing to witness.”
With Scherzer dealing on the mound, the Dodgers’ offense gave him plenty of run support. Betts launched a leadoff homer off Astros right-hander Jake Odorizzi on just the third pitch of the game. It was Betts’ eighth leadoff homer as a member of the Dodgers, and it allowed the enthusiastic Dodger Stadium crowd to celebrate a run early after the team was shut out on Tuesday.
Once Betts broke the seal in the first, the rest of his Dodgers teammates followed. Will Smith launched a three-run homer off Odorizzi, capping off a four-run first inning for Los Angeles. Betts launched his second homer of the game in the second, while AJ Pollock hit the decisive two-run blast in the third.
“For Will to get a three-run shot, those are the types of swings that change the ballgame,” Scherzer said. “If I can get run support like that, I’ll definitely be a happy camper.”
But as good as the offense was on Wednesday, the night belonged to Scherzer -- and that’s exactly what the Dodgers envisioned when they acquired him last week from the Nationals.
With Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin on the injured list, Scherzer is expected to carry a big load for a Dodgers’ rotation that can’t seem to get fully healthy this season. The Dodgers believe Scherzer is built for this challenge, not only because of his ability but also because of the intensity he brings on the mound.
The Dodgers have lacked a sense of urgency this season. That won’t be lacking on days when Scherzer toes the rubber, as was on full display in front of a raucous Dodger Stadium.
“From the moment we got to the ballpark, you can just see that elevation, anticipation from our guys,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “He delivered. He delivered. It was just so much fun.”