ST. LOUIS -- Having managed him in All-Star Games and watching from afar, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts knew adding Max Scherzer to the rotation at the Trade Deadline would be a huge boost to his club.
But even with such high expectations, Scherzer has somehow been able to exceed them in his short time wearing Dodger Blue. The right-hander has given the Dodgers some added intensity, and his performance has been at an elite level.
The Missouri native saved his best for the Cardinals, allowing one run (unearned) and striking out 13 over eight dominant innings in the Dodgers’ 5-1 win on Monday at Busch Stadium. With his latest masterpiece, Scherzer is now 5-0 with a 1.05 ERA and 63 strikeouts in seven starts since being traded to Los Angeles.
With a Giants win over the Rockies, the Dodgers remain one game back in the National League West standings.
It was the third time in Scherzer’s career that he didn’t allow an earned run and struck out at least 13 over eight or more innings. The last time was in 2015, his 17-strikeout no-hitter against the Mets.
“He’s been outstanding. We knew what we were getting, but I think he’s even exceeded our expectations. He’s been unbelievable,” said Dodgers utility man Chris Taylor. “The intensity he brings every night he steps out there, and he puts us in great positions to win.”
Scherzer’s outing began with infielder Tommy Edman hitting a leadoff double. That was all the Cardinals got off Scherzer over the next few innings, as he retired the next nine batters he faced, striking out five of them.
The only sign of real trouble for Scherzer came in the sixth inning, when the Cardinals were able to score an unearned run following a passed ball. Other than that, Scherzer was in complete control, particularly with a slider and four-seamer combination that helped him record 17 of his 25 swings-and-misses. Scherzer was also able to take advantage of the shadows in the ballpark during the middle innings.
“I was able to get some early zeros, and they were coming out aggressive against me, so I was able to keep the pitch count down,” Scherzer said. “And once the shadows start creeping in, that’s when you try to go offspeed as much as possible, because it’s tough seeing in those situations. We had a good game plan of what we wanted to do and just stayed with a heavy mix.”
There were some questions surrounding Scherzer’s right hamstring, which limited him to just 76 pitches in his previous outing against the Braves. Those questions were clearly answered with the right-hander’s dominant performance.
Another question surrounding Scherzer is whether he’s making a serious run at a fourth career Cy Young Award. Teammate Walker Buehler appears to be among the front-runners, but his rough outing on Sunday opened the door for the rest of the pack, Scherzer included.
With Monday’s impressive performance, Scherzer leads the Majors among qualified starters with a 2.28 ERA. He also eclipsed the 200-strikeout mark for the ninth time in his career. Scherzer needs six strikeouts to join the 3,000-strikeout club.
“Guy’s tough. He’s going to go to the Hall of Fame,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. “We’ve had some good battles with him, and today he got the better of it and was able to take down eight innings and did a nice job. … Guy was on point with what he was doing and was able to execute it, and he clearly pitched us pretty tough.”
As Scherzer dominated the Cardinals’ lineup, the Dodgers’ offense, which has been inconsistent as of late, fought through a tough travel night and jumped on right-hander Miles Mikolas in the first inning.
Trea Turner got it started with a leadoff double. Max Muncy and Mookie Betts then followed with singles, giving the Dodgers the early 1-0 lead. After the Dodgers scored a second run on a Justin Turner double play, Taylor delivered the big hit, a two-out, two-run homer off Mikolas to push the lead to 4-0.
While the offense stalled, recording just one hit over the last eight innings, it had done enough to let Scherzer take care of the rest. The Dodgers are 7-0 when Scherzer takes the mound for them this season, and it might lead to him adding some more hardware to his already crowded trophy room.
“He’s fit in seamlessly, and he’s made a very good team even better,” said Roberts. “I feel very fortunate to get to know him and build a relationship, but the bottom line is he makes our ballclub better every single day -- not just those days that he’s pitching.”