Gutsy Scherzer wins in return with 6 strong

August 12th, 2020

isn’t one to hold back on the mound. So when his pitch count eclipsed 50 in the second inning on Tuesday night at Citi Field, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he buckled down from there to complete six quality innings.

“It’s Max being Max,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s going to fight through it. That’s who he is, and he wants to give you everything he has every single day.”

Starting for the first time since leaving his last outing after one inning because of a tweaked right hamstring, Scherzer worked around heavy traffic early but held the Mets to one run on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over 105 pitches in the Nats’ 2-1 win.

Scherzer hadn’t pitched a full outing in nearly two weeks, and it took him a beat to home in on his location. He credited the Nationals’ training staff for getting him on the field for his next scheduled start, and he said the hamstring “wasn’t an issue.”

“The issue was that they really grinded me and made me throw 60 pitches in the first couple innings,” Scherzer said. “So it was just trying to find a way to navigate through the lineup and try to get deep into that game and try to throw as many innings as I could after really the second inning, because a lot of time that can spiral out of control.”

Going into the game, Scherzer and the Nationals had planned for him to reach his usual pitch count in the 100-110 range. So as that number grew early on, Scherzer didn’t get rattled and Martinez didn’t make a call to the bullpen.

“He started settling down,” Martinez said. “He started mixing his pitches up better. He started getting the ball down in the strike zone and getting some swings and misses. He started throwing his breaking pitches over the plate, which was nice.

“The one thing for him is, he’s just got to watch his mechanics, especially when we know that he’s had a hamstring issue. So we want to make sure he’s still on his legs, and he was. ... The last inning, he was still up at 96 [mph], so that was encouraging.”

Scherzer's fastball, which he used 51 percent of the time on Tuesday night, reached 97.9 mph and averaged 95.2 mph. The velocity topped his season average of 94.5 mph.

Scherzer said he actually felt some fatigue after the first two innings. He described his arm as “a little dead” at that point, so he tapped into his arsenal of pitching weapons and turned to his changeup, which had a 27 percent swing percentage.

“I was able to start going into the zone with the changeup, and that pitch really helped me out there in the middle part of the game,” he said. “Even though I kind of got gassed there a little bit ... I was still able to find a way just to keep competing and keep coming up with pitches to collect outs.”

As Scherzer amassed those outs, he reached another notable number in his career: Tuesday was his 162nd regular-season start with Washington. He has thrown at least six frames and fanned at least seven batters in 118 (73 percent) of those outings.

“He went out there today and was great,” Martinez said. “He gave us what we needed. A huge win. It was a good win for him.”