Scherzer's frustration shows in dugout during Nats' loss

The frustration boiled over for Max Scherzer after allowing a run in the sixth inning Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

Scherzer had just surrendered a solo homer to Jay Bruce that extended the Phillies lead to 3-0, which turned out to be the final margin. After the inning finished, the Nationals ace was shown on the Phillies broadcast slamming his glove down in the dugout.

"Frustrated," Scherzer said after the game on his Zoom video call. "Look, tensions are high. You want to go out there and win. As the starting pitcher, you want to pitch out and get deep into the game and be winning the game. We are on a losing streak and you want to be the stopper. I wasn't, and that's frustrating for me. I allowed a tack-on run, which makes it even harder for our offense to score. Just kind of the way even the sixth inning was unfolding, it was frustrating for me. Yeah, it's emotional. Slam my glove - oh, well."

Scherzer gave up the Bruce homer in the sixth, then had to battle even more just to get out of the inning. With two outs, Neil Walker singled and Adam Haseley doubled. Suddenly, the Phillies were on the verge of breaking the game open. But Scherzer managed to get Andrew McCutchen to fly out to center field to end the inning and his night.

"That's why his pitch count has been so high," said Nats manager Davey Martinez. "He had 108 pitches today. He gets to the point where he tries to get a little too fine. He was upset about the Jay Bruce homer. He started yelling, throwing his glove. He got upset about that because he had two strikes on him."

Scherzer had to throw 108 pitches to record 18 outs. He walked three and struck out six. In five of seven starts this season in which he at least pitched into the fifth inning, the right-hander has given up two or more free passes. Three times, he has allowed three or more walks.

Scherzer-Throws-Blue-at-Phila-Sidebar.jpgIt is unusual for Scherzer to have problems locating the strike zone on any pitch. In 2019, his walks per nine innings was 1.7. His career average is 2.4. This season, that rate has gone up to 3.3 through eight starts. He has not allowed more than three walks per nine innings in a season since 2010.

Scherzer said it is a fine line when trying to find out a way to finish off a batter that manages to stay in the at-bat for a long time.

"You can nibble, you can locate and then you can be aggressively attacking in the zone," said Scherzer. "That strategy leads to a lot more hits if you're constantly in the zone. I'm really trying to focus on location, really trying locate, but sometimes I get caught nibbling just a little bit too much when I should be aggressive. When you get in certain counts and certain pitch locations and types, there's just too many times right now where it ends up nibbling and I'm just missing by a little bit instead of being little bit more aggressive.

"For me, that's my take on why my walks are a little bit up. I think I need to be a little more aggressive towards the zone so that I don't nibble as much and that way that will just naturally bring the walks down."

Martinez noticed the nibbling, too. He thinks Scherzer may not realize how good his fastball can be in some counts where he tries to put a batter away.

"His stuff is really good," Martinez said. "He could have thrown his fastball a lot of times by guys and he did. The broken bats were an example. The walks, that's something that we don't know what's going on, but he gets those guys in two-strike counts or 3-1 counts and I think he needs to be more aggressive in the zone because his stuff is electric."

Scherzer also believes he cannot be as aggressive as he would normally be because he just does not have as much confidence in his changeup so far this season.

"My changeup just isn't as effective right now," Scherzer said. "It just doesn't have the same action on it. That will send me back to the drawing board of, 'All right, how do I get back to throwing my good depth changeup?' That swing-and-miss changeup, I just don't have that right now and it's just not as effective."

The Phillies broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning thanks to a pair of walks from Scherzer. Then with the bases loaded, Walker dropped in a broken-bat two-run single to put Philadelphia in the lead.

"Did some things well," Scherzer said. "But there in the fourth inning, walk two leadoff guys, you're asking for trouble. Just wasn't able to get ahead on either (J.T.) Realmuto or (Jean) Segura. That set up a bad inning. (Alec) Bohm was able to get extended on a slider and really set them up."

And if you thought Scherzer would use Walker's broken-bat single as an excuse for allowing the first runs to score, you would be wrong. Scherzer says it is his fault for allowing the hit.

"You hear pitchers all the time, 'Oh, I gave up a broken-bat base hit for a couple of runs, they got so lucky.' Whatever. You got to be accountable to yourself," Scherzer said. "You got to be accountable to what you have control over. Yeah, he had a broken-bat base hit. Well, guess what? I walked two guys. You almost kind of deserve it in that situation.

"For me, the bottom line is I got through six innings. I don't think I was quite as bad as my line was, but I got to cut out these walks."

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