Scherzer shoulders load as LA sweeps SD

Mad Max stays unbeaten since trade to Dodgers, strikes out 10

August 27th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- After the 16-inning adventure on Wednesday, the Dodgers came into the series finale Thursday night with a taxed bullpen. Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen were unavailable, as were key middle relievers Alex Vesia, Corey Knebel and Phil Bickford.

Because they were missing half their bullpen, the Dodgers needed a strong -- and lengthy -- performance from their starter. Enter .

Not only did Scherzer give the Dodgers plenty of length, but the veteran right-hander continued to show why Los Angeles made it a priority to trade for him last month. Scherzer struck out 10 over 7 2/3 dominant innings in a 4-0 win over the Padres at Petco Park, securing a three-game sweep for the Dodgers.

“I knew coming in that the bullpen was taxed,” Scherzer said. “That’s what the team needed. The team needed me to go deep today, and I was able to go out there and execute the game plan with [catcher Austin] Barnes and we did a lot of great things tonight.”

Scherzer, who struggled in his first two starts against the Padres this season, dominated the San Diego hitters from start to finish this time. He struck out the side in the first inning and continued to cruise, retiring 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. Scherzer credited better sequencing and learning from his previous mistakes for the success on Thursday.

The only sign of trouble came in the fifth inning, when the Padres had two runners on. But Scherzer struck out Ha-Seong Kim and then got some help from and , who turned a nifty inning-ending double play.

“To me, the play of the game was when we were able to turn that double play,” Scherzer said. “That really changed the complexion of the game. It kept my pitch count under control and allowed me to continue to pitch deep into the game.”

Following that double play, Scherzer went back into cruise control. The only baserunner he allowed the rest of the way was a two-out walk to Jake Cronenworth in the sixth. Scherzer got 17 swings and misses, doing most of his damage with his four-seam fastball and slider.

His season ERA is now 2.51, the sixth-best in the Majors among qualified starters.

In his five starts with the Dodgers, Scherzer is 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 29 innings.

“He’s been huge. He’s been better than advertised,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I knew there was a work ethic, a compete, a fire, but I didn’t realize the preparation.

“He knows exactly what he wants to do when he takes that mound. He knows where the defense is at. He knows how to navigate a lineup and he knows what stuff is working that particular night. You layer that in with the talent, and it’s pretty impressive. We needed a big one out of him, and he delivered.”

With Scherzer on the mound, the Dodgers’ offense was able to give him enough run support against Padres right-hander Yu Darvish. got the start because starter Will Smith caught all 16 innings on Wednesday. Barnes made the most of the opportunity, launching a two-run homer off Darvish in the second inning. added an RBI double in the frame and the Dodgers tacked on a fourth run in the fourth.

“Getting a couple runs off Darvish and having Scherzer on the mound, that’s a big boost,” Barnes said. “Darvish is a tough pitcher, but we did enough to get us the lead, and our pitching did the rest.”

While the offense did enough to help the Dodgers sweep, the biggest reason for the Dodgers’ success against the Padres this week was the stellar performances they got from their entire pitching staff, especially from their starting pitching. got the series started with five scoreless innings. then followed it up with another stellar performance, allowing one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings.

Then on Thursday, Scherzer delivered the exclamation point. With Scherzer’s 7 2/3 scoreless innings, the three Dodgers starters in the series combined to allow one run (none earned) on six hits over 19 1/3 innings. As an entire staff, the Dodgers allowed five runs on 10 hits over 34 innings.

When the postseason comes around, the Dodgers are going to rely heavily on Buehler, Scherzer and Urías. They’ll be L.A’s top three starters in a series, regardless of when or if Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin return from injury. Right now, that’s as dominant of a trio as there is in the Majors. The Padres got a taste of that this week.