Scherzer on loss: 'I didn't bring my 'A' game'

Nationals ace, usually dominant vs. Marlins, allows 7 runs (6 earned)

April 21st, 2019

MIAMI -- Max Scherzer on the mound against the Marlins has usually been a winning formula for the Nationals. The last seven times he has faced Miami, he has guided the Nats to victory, a streak dating back to August 2017.

But Scherzer did not have his best stuff Saturday night at Marlins Park, a rare occurrence during his tenure in D.C. He gave up 11 hits and seven runs (six earned) in 5 1/3 innings as the Nationals dropped Saturday’s game, 9-3, to the Marlins. It’s only the second time since joining the Nats that Scherzer has given up that many hits and the first since September 2015.

“This is big league baseball,” Scherzer said. “If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, you get beat. And tonight, I didn't bring my ‘A’ game, I got beat.”

Scherzer did not have his ‘A’ game from the beginning of this outing. He gave up a pair of runs in the first inning on RBI hits from Brian Anderson and Starlin Castro. After the Nats tied the game in the third, Scherzer promptly allowed another RBI single from Castro to give Miami a 3-2 lead. And then the Nats tied the game again in the fifth, but Scherzer surrendered a solo homer to Curtis Granderson.

As Scherzer reflected on his outing after the game, he took solace in the fact that he still threw so many first-pitch strikes and did not walk a batter. That let him know he still had his control, but his pitch location was off, especially on his offspeed pitches.

“There's a difference,” he said. “I'm wild in the strike zone and I'm leaving offspeed pitches right in the middle of the plate. I'm not trying to sit here and say, ‘I think I'm throwing good pitches and things are happening in a funny way.’ No, I'm leaving pitches over the heart of the plate.”

Despite those obvious struggles, and the fact that he had thrown 92 pitches at that point, Nationals manager Dave Martinez permitted Scherzer to hit for himself in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs and a runner on first and trailing by a run. Scherzer would record one more out, last four more batters and get charged with three more runs.

“He was [92] pitches and he told me he was good,” Martinez said. “He felt like and I felt like his fastball was good, it was just more the pitch location. If we get him through that inning we’re sitting pretty good.”

The Nationals have now lost four of Scherzer’s first five starts this season. These are games they cannot afford to lose often, especially against the basement-dwelling Marlins, who won back-to-back games for the first time this year. Washington needs a victory in Sunday’s series finale to avoid being swept.

And in the days in between starts, Scherzer will be working tirelessly to make an adjustment. His run of dominance over the National League since he arrived in Washington has left the Nats spoiled because outings like Saturday are so rare. But his ERA after five starts is now 4.45 and aside from a gem on Opening Day, he has not yet pitched with the same dominance that has become routine during his Nats tenure. It’s far too early to worry, but it has presented Scherzer with a personal challenge to figure out before his next start.

“Mentally you start thinking about what’s causing the problems of why wouldn’t you have command?” Scherzer said. “What mechanical little things would you do differently? It’s a good little exercise I’ll be in for the next 24 to 48 hours. What I think I can do differently to try to drive my offspeed pitches into areas that I think I’m trying to execute them and not over the middle of the plate.”