WASHINGTON -- After the Nationals signed right-hander Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million deal in January 2015, talk immediately turned to going to the World Series and winning it.The team fell short of expectations that year, but this year the Nationals are in the postseason -- with Scherzer pitching
WASHINGTON -- After the Nationals signed right-hander Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million deal in January 2015, talk immediately turned to going to the World Series and winning it.
The team fell short of expectations that year, but this year the Nationals are in the postseason -- with Scherzer pitching against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday (FS1, 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT). Manager Dusty Baker made that unsurprising fact official on Tuesday.
Don't even bother talking to Scherzer about the Nationals' history in the postseason. In 2012 and '14, they were bounced in the NLDS by the Cardinals and Giants, respectively. This year will be a different story, according to Scherzer.
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"That's the past," Scherzer said. "I wasn't here [those years]. I don't even know what you guys [the media] are talking about. This is a whole new team. We have Daniel Murphy in here, we have Trea Turner. We have some new faces in here. There's no reason why we can't win. I think we can win."
Scherzer has postseason experience. In 12 games (10 starts), all with the Tigers, Scherzer is 4-3 with a 3.73 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings. Since 2012, however, his postseason ERA is 3.06.
Scherzer learned from his first postseason game against the Yankees in 2011 that he was his own best coach. In the first inning of Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Scherzer walked two batters. He didn't need a pitching coach to tell him what he was doing wrong, settling down to retire the next 11 batters he faced. Scherzer would go on to pitch six shutout innings as the Tigers won the game, 5-3.
"You can have everyone tell you what's going to work for you and try to give you advice. You pitch how you pitch," Scherzer said. "If you pitch with adrenaline, you have to go out there and use it. If you slow the game down, go ahead and slow the game down. You have to be your own best coach. You know what makes you successful at this level. You just have to do it again."
Scherzer has to pitch against one of the top pitchers in the Major Leagues, opposing left-hander Clayton Kershaw, a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner. Scherzer is eager to measure himself against the best.
"He is an unbelievable pitcher," Scherzer said of Kershaw. "Man, I can't wait to compete against him."
Scherzer has yet to face the Dodgers this year. Does that give him an advantage? Maybe.
"I faced them in the past," Scherzer said. "They have seen me before with different teams. You go back and watch the video and see what made you successful. At the end of the day, it comes down to execution. I believe if I execute, I can win. If they believe they can put the execution on my pitches, they can win."
Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.