Max Scherzer knew he needed to conserve as much energy as possible on a 94-degree night in which the heat index reached 103. But there’s only so much you can do to combat the kind of conditions the Nationals right-hander faced last night: Change sopping wet jerseys every few innings, stand in front of a giant industrial fan to cool down, pour water over your head.
“Look, it’s hot for me, it’s hot for them,” Scherzer said. “It’s just not an excuse. It’s just something you’ve got to get through. It’s part of the game, the elements you have to deal with.”
And Scherzer dealt with them exceptionally well last night, going seven strong innings to help put the Nationals in position to beat the Padres 3-2.
Scherzer didn’t get the win - that went to Jonathan Papelbon, who was the pitcher of record when Stephen Drew hit his walk-off triple in the bottom of the ninth - but he did his part.
“Max looked outstanding,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Scherzer made but one true mistake: a 2-0 fastball to Ryan Schimpf that landed in the right field bleachers in the top of the second, a two-run homer that accounted for all of San Diego’s offense in this game.
“I was more mad with (falling behind) 2-0 than with the pitch,” Scherzer said. “If you fall behind 2-0 in this league and get behind, you’re going to get beat. That’s just the way it is, and tonight was the proof of it. If you throw a fastball on the inner-third, you’re going to get beat.”
It was the 22nd home run surrendered by Scherzer in 21 starts this season, but it was but a footnote by night’s end.
“I also wasn’t going to let that mistake define my outing,” he said. “I went out there and gave the team what it needed and went seven strong innings.”
Indeed he did, getting stronger by the inning. Scherzer struck out the side in the top of the seventh on 12 pitches, giving him 10 strikeouts for the game against zero walks. It’s the eighth time in the last two seasons he has done that, second-most in the majors behind only Clayton Kershaw (who has done it 11 times).
“That’s what I take a lot of pride in: No walks, going out there and competing all the way into the seventh,” he said. “I feel like that’s what keeps our good relievers coming in for the end. It forces their hand as well.”