MIAMI -- It would have been difficult to tell that Tuesday night was an exhibition game from watching Nationals ace Max Scherzer. Matching the same intensity he carries every fifth day for a regular-season game, Scherzer stomped behind the mound and screamed to himself as he readied to throw the
MIAMI -- It would have been difficult to tell that Tuesday night was an exhibition game from watching Nationals ace Max Scherzer. Matching the same intensity he carries every fifth day for a regular-season game, Scherzer stomped behind the mound and screamed to himself as he readied to throw the first pitch of the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, which the National League went on to lose, 2-1, in 10 innings.
This is Scherzer, a five-time All-Star making his second career start in the Midsummer Classic, still as pumped to take the mound as if it were his first game. And Scherzer excelled in a 15-pitch scoreless first inning, notching a pair of strikeouts that included fanning T-Mobile Home Run Derby champion Aaron Judge on a slider.
"Your pride's on the line," Scherzer said. "You want to go out there and you want to show the world that you can beat the best. Those are the best hitters in the American League right now, and you want to go out there and compete against them and show that you can get those guys out. I don't need anything on the line. I don't need home-field advantage, I want to go out there and have success against them."
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Scherzer made the decision along with the Nationals that he was only going to throw one frame Tuesday night, considering he had thrown 120 pitches four days prior. So he made the most of it.
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He worked around a one-out single from Jose Ramirez, striking out Judge and George Springer to end the inning. In the at-bat against Judge, Scherzer unleashed the second-fastest pitch he has thrown this season with a fastball at 97.8 mph, as tracked by Statcast™. Then he finished Judge off by getting him to swing through a slider.
"I needed to try to feel out what Judge was going to do and how aggressive he was going to be and what pitch I was going to be able to get by him," Scherzer said. "And just kind of, you know, toying with him and seeing what was working. Fortunately I threw a good 3-2 slider and got a good swing and miss."
It capped off a stellar first half for Scherzer, who leads the Majors with a 2.10 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, while his 173 strikeouts top the National League. It made him an easy choice for Cubs manager Joe Maddon to start this game, a nod Scherzer cherished and wanted to make the most of.
"I think that's part of what makes Max so great," Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said before the game. "Anything that he ever does he looks for a challenge. Facing the guys he's going to face tonight, he'll probably try and up his game even more because he won't want them to get a hit off him, just because he's so competitive."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.