Opening day is here and the Nationals would not have it any other way: It’s their two-time National League Cy Young Award winner against the most recent Cy Young winner. Max Scherzer facing the Mets’ Jacob deGrom.
Scherzer said he knows deGrom is on the other side today, but his focus is on getting the Mets lineup out and not about trading zeros with the New York starter.
“You’re cognizant when your facing someone as good as Jake,” Scherzer said. “You go to bring your A-game. But it’s opening day, everybody is going to bring their A-game. No one is coming out flat first game of the year. Everyone is going to come out full tilt. You expect that. For me, I’m facing their lineup. I’m not necessarily facing Jake. He’s not facing me, he’s facing our lineup. The contest is between us and the hitting coaches.”
Scherzer was 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts against the Mets last season, striking out 18 batters. This will be Scherzer’s fourth opening day start, all four with the Nationals. He boasts a 1-1 record with a 0.87 ERA and 25 strikeouts against five walks in those three starts.
The right-hander said opening day is special for him because of big things like getting the new season filled with optimism underway and amazing things like the pregame flyover.
“You are just excited. You’re excited to get back out there,” Scherzer said. “We’ve been waiting this whole offseason. We’ve been training this whole offseason. We’ve been going since December, every single week of getting ready for this moment. It’s happy to get into the regular season and get into your midseason form in your routines because that’s where you feel comfortable. I just want to go out there and compete.”
Scherzer has not pitched since March 22, a full six days off. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will have the same amount of time and admitted during spring training that it was not ideal. But does having the extra days off bother Scherzer?
“Physically, I’m right where I need to be,” Scherzer said. “Throughout spring training, with the running, lifting, building up through 75, 90 to 100 pitches. That’s how you want to do it. With the off-days managing that, coming on six days (into) the season. Everything is mapped out just the way we want it.”
Manager Davey Martinez said extra throwing sessions help his starters with the extra days off between spring training and their first start of the season.
“We built them up this spring training,” Martinez said. “A lot of them we got up to 90 pitches. They understand. They actually want the extra days off right now. But once Thursday comes, they’re going to get to pitch every five days - four of them, for the most part. The only guy that’s going to miss is (Jeremy) Hellickson.”
Scherzer said he is ready to go and he likes the offseason moves that ownership and general manager Mike Rizzo have made to get this team ready for 2019.
“They went out there and did their job so it’s now time for us to go out there and do our job,” Scherzer said.