Max Scherzer took the mound on Thursday for his 189th career start in a Nationals uniform and got the win, holding the Philadelphia Phillies to one run over six innings in a 3-1 victory for Washington to kick off a doubleheader. However, it wasn’t the results that made the start so impact for the right-hander. It was the fact that it might his last as a member of the Nationals.
The three-time Cy Young winner has been at the center of trade rumors for the last week and such a move has grown more and more likely as the Nationals stumbled toward Friday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. Though he found out Wednesday night that he would be taking the ball, it was a surprise when manager Davey Martinez announced he would be starting Thursday morning.
In true Scherzer fashion, he rose to the moment and delivered a memorable performance that should serve to reassure interested teams he’s still healthy — he missed his last start with tricep discomfort — and just as effective. After seven years in Washington that saw him help the club to its first World Series title in 2019, Scherzer reflected on what his time in D.C. has meant.
“For me, this is where my family kind of started,” Scherzer said. “I came here without kids and now I got three kids. To watch my girls grow up here and living here in Virginia, in the DMV area, we’ve really gotten used to it and all the politics going around. Being in the nation’s capital is kind of fun as well. To drive by all the monuments every single day, it’s been a very fun experience for me being in D.C.
“The fans, what can you say about the fans? That’s where that championship will always mean something to all of us and we’ll always have that and always have that flag.”
The Nationals signed Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million free agent deal over the 2014-15 offseason. All he’s done since is win two Cy Youngs, toss a pair of no-hitters, record a 20-strikeout game, lead the NL in strikeouts three times and go 6-for-6 in earning invitations to the All-Star Game.
Oh yeah, he also put up a 2.40 ERA in six appearances for the Nationals during the 2019 postseason, including a World Series Game 7 start. Washington went 6-0 in those games.
“I don’t want to look at this as a negative thing,” Scherzer said of the Nationals selling at the deadline. “I’d rather look at this as a positive thing. Look, I signed a seven-year deal here and won a World Series. The first thing I said when I signed was, ‘I’m here to win.’ And we won. We won a World Series so that’s a lifelong dream come true and something that I’ll always be so proud of.”
In addition to accolades, Scherzer left his mark on D.C. for his tenacity on the mound and dedication to be the best every time he took the field. He grunted when he threw, stalked around the infield after strikeouts and didn’t shy away from staring down anyone who got in his path.
This is the guy who threw seven shutout innings a day after breaking his nose in batting practice. This is the guy who cussed out former manager Matt Williams for trying to pull him from a game before he thought he was done. This is the guy who woke up on the morning of Game 5 of the World Series unable to dress himself and was back out there for Game 7 gutting his way through five innings.
When asked what thoughts were going through his head after making perhaps the final start of his Nationals career, Scherzer gave an answer only he could.
“I put it on the line every single time. I’ll give you everything I got no matter what the situation is. Today was a wacky start with all the hoopla and everything going around but just put your head down, put the blinders up and go out there and compete. You do it for each other.
“It’s the relationships that you make and how you go about it and how you can play the game. Even when you’re at the worst, when we have COVID, when we have trades, all this stuff going down. When the worst situations are in front of you, how do you perform? You wanna go out there and do your best. I think that’s something I hope that everybody appreciates and my teammates as well. When we are dealing with all this, all my teammates as well have responded extremely well of going out there and competing, playing as a team despite all the stuff that’s going on all around us. So that’s what I remember.”