Max Scherzer

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Professional baserunner Max Scherzer picks up second stolen base of season

Professional baserunner Max Scherzer picks up second stolen base of season

Max Scherzer may be signed for $210 million to take the mound every fifth day, but he takes his hitting duties seriously as a National League pitcher.

The Nats’ ace picked up an opposite-field single in the fifth off Braves reliever Chad Sobotka, and Freddie Freeman didn’t cover first base to prevent him from taking a big lead. Scherzer took full advantage, swiping second for the third stolen base of his career—and second of the season.

Scherzer is now 3-for-3 in his career, making him one of 94 players in MLB history who’s swiped at least three bags and never been thrown out. His first stolen base, which happened back in 2018, came off now-Nationals teammate Kurt Suzuki.

He also tossed 98 pitches in the contest, allowing one run on two hits and two walks with nine strikeouts across six innings of work. It’s the most pitches he’s thrown in a start since July 6.

Washington has been easing Scherzer back into his regular workload since activating him off the Injured List on Aug. 22. Between his strong performances both on the mound and the basepaths, Scherzer is showing all signs of rounding back into form.

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Max Scherzer is back, but not yet all the way

Max Scherzer is back, but not yet all the way


WASHINGTON -- Though pleased in Pittsburgh, Max Scherzer warned he was “not out of the woods yet.”

He had at least returned to pitch for the first time in almost a month. The result against putrid Pittsburgh was palatable: four innings, one earned run, three strikeouts, and a walk. Sufficient, if unspectacular, for 71 pitches.

Wednesday brought a crisp opening. Scherzer struck out to the first two Baltimore batters in the Nationals' 8-4 win. Trey Mancini singled, DJ Stewart popped out. He zipped through the second with two more strikeouts. 

The third inning was taxing following a quick first two outs. Single, double -- run in, a rare four-pitch walk. Then the inning closed. The fourth was better, 1-2-3, and a big lead to work with. But, Scherzer’s effectiveness closed there. He allowed a leadoff homer to light-hitting Chance Sisco, recorded one more out, then surrendered back-to-back singles, the latter of the pair aided by mediocre right-side defense. Davey Martinez approached the mound. Scherzer kicked the dirt with his cleat and agreeably handed the ball over.

Scherzer has made two starts since returning from his second stint on the injured list. He’s thrown a total of 8 ⅓ innings and 160 pitches. The good Wednesday: Scherzer moved up to 89 pitches in his outing. The next time he pitches, when it is going to carry weight, will be against the New York Mets on Labor Day afternoon. Scherzer should be set for 100 pitches by then. The question is how sharp they will be.

Velocity has not been an issue. His fastball averaged 94.2 mph Wednesday and maxed out at 96. That’s in line with each of his five seasons in Washington. The telling number from Wednesday’s outing was 10. Scherzer created only 10 swings and misses with his 89 pitches. That’s a low rate for him, just 11.2 percent. Take his last outing versus Kansas City, the one before he went on the injured list for the first time. He threw 103 pitches, generating 25 swings and misses. That’s 24.3 percent, and a decent comparison because the Royals and Orioles are similarly unskilled at offense. He recognized Wednesday his pitches lacked some fierceness.

“The pitch count was up given that I was getting through 4 1/3," Scherzer said. "To me that also tells me I’m not able to just put away guys the way I want, the way I’m capable of. That’ll come when I can turn up the throttle a little bit. And so hopefully I can recover and be able to do that.”

An explanation for that could rest with his self-imposed governor. Scherzer has worked to control himself his last two starts. He’s desperate to stay healthy and fearful going too hard now will cost a chance to go at all later.

“We’re at the point in the season where there’s no room for error,” Scherzer said. “I can not get hurt. So, I understand that. That’s why I’m going out there pitching under control. I’m not going to put my body in jeopardy. If I give up runs, so what. I’m more focused on going out there and pitching, making my starts, throwing my pitches, and recovering. That’s the No. 1 thing. When I can get through this and I can start recovering well and really get into my routine, that’s what I’m really looking forward to getting to. Hopefully this is the turn that everything works, but we’ll see [Thursday].”

Scherzer is more in the training room than the weight room in between starts. Managing his recovery is the focus of his off days as the team moves toward September and possibly October. The unpredictability of his back injury has been beguiling for someone who tries to micro-manage each situation. Waking up has become more of a concern than taking the mound, which leaves him cautious about the future. 

“That’s been the hardest thing about this whole thing,” Scherzer said. “I can go out there … go back and throw hard, and the next day I’m suffering. For me, it’s always been about the next day. That’s where I’m going to see how I feel [Wednesday]. Hopefully, tonight was a good night. I can recover from tonight. Hopefully, this time I'm on my turn and get back on my normal routine of everything. So, we’ll see.”

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Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

WASHINGTON -- If you ask Max Scherzer, he is ready. Which is not an upgrade from where he was earlier in the week.

Scherzer felt well again Sunday when he woke up following his second simulation game of the week. His workload increased Saturday, his comfort remained the same and Sunday his body told him he is ready to pitch in a game for the first time since July 25. Davey Martinez agreed -- for the most part. He said Scherzer is “probable” to start Thursday in Pittsburgh.

“I feel good,” Scherzer said. “Kinda do my normal little tests, move my arm and go through the throwing motion, so I feel good. I’m basically sore today the way I should be sore, given that and all the treatment we did yesterday and throwing a sim game. Like everything feels right where it should be. There’s no extra soreness other than what I anticipated. To me, that’s right on par.”

Scherzer remains irritated he was instructed to throw a second simulation game. He understands why. It just was not his personal preference. Part of the reason is in the title of the act. “Simulation” is not reality. For instance, he warned Gerardo Parra a slider was coming in the first simulation game. “Watch your foot,” Scherzer told him out of concern for possible injury. Pitchers are not truly pitching inside during simulations because of that worry. Players could be found to stand in the box without concern of injury. However, they couldn’t competently handle a hall-of-fame pitcher. So, that’s a false test, too. Only being in a game tells the truth.

But this is what Scherzer had to deal with because of the organization managed his return slowly. They focused on the future -- both this season and beyond. Scherzer is much more concerned about the now because, in his view, his rhomboid strain is not a significant injury.

“The long-term health, that’s not even part of the equation,” Scherzer said. “We all know that’s going to be good because we’re dealing with a muscle strain. Every other structure within the back, shoulder, you name it – nothing at play here. It’s literally dealing with the muscle strain and getting through it.”

Knowing this is not a long-term injury has keyed Scherzer’s frustration with the process. He’s felt close, then ready, really close, and again ready throughout the recovery. He’s being teased by the thing he wants to do most: get back on the mound in a real game. 

“Honestly, the toughest part about this whole thing is I feel like the carrot’s right in front of my face,” Scherzer said. “That it’s such day to day that any day it could turn and you always wake up every single day thinking today’s the day that you’re going to wake up and not feel anything and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to throw it and you’re going to feel no pain whatsoever. And you go off running because it’s not a serious injury. That’s been the most frustrating part. 

“If I knew that was going to be however long this is going to take – if I was dealing with, say, a more significant injury where they say, ‘You’re not going to feel good in six weeks’ – all right, you got it. You can easily mentally check out for six weeks knowing I’m not going to be able to throw a ball in six weeks and you can build your rehab around that. That hasn’t been the case. It’s really been day to day: ‘Hey, you might be feeling good here in two days.’ That’s really been the prognosis I’ve gotten from the doctors and everybody about what I’m dealing with. 

“So for me, that’s really been the hardest part mentally. I feel like at any point in time I could be ready to get back out there and at any day everybody’s expecting that this could turn. For me, when you have that carrot right in front of your face and you want to be helping your team, that’s what’s been the most frustrating part for me mentally.”

A bullpen session Monday should be next. After that, a final step to diffuse all of Scherzer’s irritation, his competition-based combat with Martinez and the organization and exasperation with a muscle strain which derailed him for a month can come: pitch one.

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