MIAMI - Right-hander Max Scherzer talked about how well divisional opponents know his stuff and how they try to wait him out.
The Phillies attempted that strategy May 6 and Scherzer battled through for a season-high 15 strikeouts and a 5-4 win. He managed to pitch around three Phillies extra-base hits.
Friday’s game was the Nationals’ first meeting of 19 this season against the Marlins, another National League East foe. Scherzer fought through six innings, 114 pitches, a two-run double by Miguel Rojas and a two-run, upper-deck homer by Derek Dietrich to earn his eighth win of the season.
“He battled through, trying to get through that sixth inning,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I had a feeling that was it for him. We have this thing. I know when he is done, and he was done.”
But Dietrich really crushed that ball. What did Scherzer think of the matchup?
“I was trying to backdoor a cutter. The first time I threw it against them it was just out, tried to bring it back and it got to the middle. You know, look, mistakes happen. I’m human. I make mistakes. I’m not mad about (it). The younger version of me would be one to just throw the cooler across the room because I made a mistake.”
Scherzer said he was more upset because he had hit Brian Anderson with a pitch in the fourth and then walked him in the sixth. Each time, Anderson came around to score on an extra-base hit.
“I know where my mistake was made, and tonight ... the at-bats that we had that changed the game were the at-bats to Anderson, actually,” Scherzer said. “To me, I’m not going to beat myself up over mistakes. I’m going to beat myself up over execution. Things that allow myself to not pitch efficiently as I should’ve. To me, those are the at-bats that matter most.”
Scherzer said he can live with a player hitting a pitch that he put over the plate. Location sometimes comes into play. It is the at-bats that get away from him - the walks, a hit batter or a wild pitch - that Scherzer knows he must eliminate in order to stay out of big innings.
“When you’re out there on the mound, I know they look like nothing, but those are the at-bats that matter most,” Scherzer argued. “It’s always slamming the door shut, even when it doesn’t seem like it. So for me, that’s where I’ll look back over the next few days how to figure out.”
This time, it was the Nationals’ offense that answered the call, building 2-0, 4-2, 7-5 and 9-5 leads to support the pitching staff, but most importantly, Scherzer.
Bryce Harper’s two-run double down the left field line in the seventh broke the game open.
“I thought Max threw the ball well,” Harper said. “Maybe a couple of mistakes that they got. But I thought overall he threw the ball well.”
Michael A. Taylor crushed a two-run shot to give the Nats a 2-0 lead in the second. Taylor said his teammates understand how much Scherzer carries them. They wanted to return the favor Friday night.
“I think it’s big,” Taylor said of the nine runs and 10 hits by the Nats. “Our offense has been kind of up and down recently. To score runs like that, I’m sure he appreciates the run support. Next time he comes out, he’ll come in and shut them down, so ...”
The Nats have tallied eight or more runs in nine games this season. They are 9-0 in those games.
Scherzer talked about the battle he must wage when opponents know his stuff and attempt to wait him out by constantly fouling off pitches.
“Obviously, when you get that type of run support, makes for a great day,” Scherzer said. “And our bullpen did a great job. Five of our guys came in. They all had different roles, different possibilities and they all pitched well. So that shows you the capabilities this team is capable of. That everybody has a piece in this puzzle and together we can win ballgames.”
Scherzer’s 114 pitches accounted for his second-highest total in a game this season. He threw 121 pitches in his last start, May 19. Should that be cause for concern? Especially since he had to throw 114 just to get through six frames?
Scherzer said he actually feels a kind of release when he gets past 110 pitches. He feels strong at that threshold, and doesn’t feel fatigue creeping in.
“I was fine. Sometimes it’s almost like, I know this is going to sound weird, but sometimes when you get those extended pitch counts, when you get above 110 and everything, it’s almost easier on your arm,” Scherzer said. “I don’t know how. I don’t know why. Sometimes when you only throw 95 pitches, it’s almost more taxing. I can’t explain it. I can’t finger why.
“The previous outing I threw, like, 120 and the next day my arm felt good. For me, that just shows you that I’m in midseason form physically, that I can take that type of load and it doesn’t really matter. I’m able to, every five days, be able to post and take a large pitch-count range. For me, that’s just ... I got to do my work between starts. Make sure that I can handle that.”
The kicker here is that Scherzer said he is in “midseason form.” The club has played only 49 games. That is a good sign.