There are few personal stats that major league baseball players will admit publicy that they pay attention to and one of those, for pitchers, is the innings they log. The 200-mark has become a benchmark for workhorse starters and after his latest outing on Saturday night, Nationals ace Max Scherzer has reached 200 innings in four straight seasons.
Ask him about wins, ERA or strikeouts and he may not be interested to discuss them. But when it comes to innings, he will go into detail.
"Of course [I'm proud]. Any time you're throwing 200-plus innings, you're going out there and taking the ball every fifth day, pitching deep into the game. Two hundred innings is a major milestone for a pitcher, not because of your personal accolades, but because of what you're doing for the team. For the team, to be able to pitch deep into the games consistently, that's what it takes to be able to do that," he said.
Scherzer got to 200 during his start against the Phillies in which he went 6 2/3 shutout innings. His night against Philly was not as easy as those numbers suggest, as it took him 68 pitches to get through the first three innings alone
Scherzer managed to 6 2/3 because he needed just 13 pitches total in the fourth and fifth innings.
"They grinded me apart. Look, I just faced this team a week ago. They know what I have," Scherzer said. "They fought me off and really ran my pitch count up. Once I got in that situation, I knew I needed to find a way to pitch efficiently so I could try to get through six and was able to collect some outs there. I got some first-pitch swings and some first-pitch outs. Then, I just kind of dared them to hit a fastball. Fortunately enough, I was able to get those outs quickly and that's what allowed me to pitch into the sixth and into the seventh tonight.
Those fast innings are what pitchers crave. And for Scherzer, there's an intangible benefit to getting off the mound quickly.
"I like to think of it as momentum. If you get their offense at bay and have quick innings, your offense is constantly at the plate. They feel like they get in rhythm. Typically, that's when they get that big inning going, when you give them that momentum," he said.
After carving up the Phillies, Scherzer now has a 2.78 ERA on the year. That's sixth in baseball and fifth in the NL. Scherzer only has a handful of starts left, but he's building a solid case for the NL Cy Young award.
"I’ve been thinking that," manager Dusty Baker admitted after Saturday's win.
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