PHILADELPHIA - It would be hard to ask for much more than what right-hander Max Scherzer has given the Nationals through his first two starts this season. Even without his A-game today, Scherzer held the Phillies to one run on six hits, with two walks and eight strikeouts, over six innings in today’s 4-3 victory.
“My fastball command was kind of inconsistent today, but I thought I had good command of all my off-speed pitches,” said Scherzer. “Changeup, cutter, slider, curveball - I felt like I was able to pitch with them the way I wanted to. You take that and move forward and continue doing what I’m trying to do.”
Nationals manager Matt Williams has witnessed Scherzer’s spring dominance spill over into the regular season, in which he’s allowed just one earned run in 16 2/3 innings for a 0.66 ERA.
“Just tenacious today,” said Williams. “He was a little bit yanking the ball a little bit early, missing his spots, but he’s got the ability to adjust.”
The Phillies threatened to score throughout the day, but the ace battled out of every situation. He got Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard to strike out to three times to end innings with runners on base.
“I mean I can always reach back and get more.” said Scherzer. “I didn’t have good rhythm today out of the windup. That’s where I felt I was most inconsistent. But once I got out of the stretch, I felt I was able to dial it in and execute pitches the way I wanted to, and I felt that was the reason why I kind of kept them at bay as long as I did. I only gave up one run, and that’s something you can hang your hat on, so that’s what you try to do when you go out there is try to give your team a chance to win, and I felt like I did that.”
Nats first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has seen the ultra-competitive Scherzer take it to another level early on this season.
“He was good,” said Zimmerman after today’s win. “Obviously, he was as advertised. He goes right at people. It’s impressive when he gets in trouble the way he kind of has that extra gear to do what he does to get out of it. Most of the great pitchers have that.”
Scherzer was also pumped to get a hit in the third inning - his first since Aug. 24, 2013. As far as he was concerned, he’ll tell people it played out a bit differently than the actual soft blooper that deflected off the glove of Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez and into right field.
“Of course. That means it’s a screamer in the books, a laser in the books. Get that out of the way,” he said.
Despite not having a statistical win to show for both his stellar performances thus far, Scherzer was satisfied with just helping the Nats end an early three-game losing streak.
“Anytime you can scratch out wins like this where you battle and you find a way to win in the extra innings, it always boosts team morale,” said Scherzer. “So hopefully we can take this and go into Boston and try to win that series.”