When you needed Max Scherzer to go deep in this game to save the bullpen, Nationals manager Dave Martinez got more then he bargained for as he got a 2-hit complete game shutout from the reigning Cy Young for a big win and a stoppage on that five-game losing streak. The Nationals moved to .500 on the season.
As Joshua Gold suggested, Max Scherzer probably said to his manager after he was spotted a 2-run lead in the 1st inning, “I got it from here” and that sounds like something Max would say. To add to Max’s effort, he had a single and stole his first base in his career.
“[Max Scherzer] was just throwing strikes and attacking the strike zone,” Dave Martinez said. “He picked us up tonight, he really did. We were able to score some runs early for him, and he went out there and did his thing.”
With the late night extra innings game yesterday in which every reliever was taxed except for Trevor Gott who was the only reliever who was not used in the game. Scherzer saved the bullpen which was a huge bonus.
Dave Martinez did report that Howie Kendrick‘s leg tightened up on him and he was removed from the game. Kendrick got the clutch 2-run double in the first inning for the only runs of the game. Bryce Harper was walked three times in the game ahead of Ryan Zimmerman who stranded 7 runners in the game while watching his batting average drop to .097. Every Nats player tonight got on-base except Zimmerman but the Nats were a horrific 1-for-12 batting with runners-in-scoring-position.
For the season, Zimmerman has now left 27 runners on base in just 31 at-bats. With Bryce Harper batting in front of Zimmerman, the Braves walked Harper 3 times in 4 at-bats. While the Nationals offense was not in full throttle tonight, the team produced 6 hits to go with 7 walks.
For Pedro Severino, he caught 12 innings last night and turned around in less than 24 hours and caught this gem from Scherzer.
“That’s a player,” said Severino about Max Scherzer. “He’s awesome. He can pitch. He can hit now. He can steal second, too. So, he’s awesome.”
The real key to the complete game was the pitch efficiency from Scherzer. He was at only 82 pitches at the end of the 7th inning.
“When I finished the seventh, I saw the pitch count was still down,” Scherzer said. “I knew at least I had a chance to keep going.”
Scherzer threw 102 pitches tonight which has been his most efficient start since May 31st of last year. Scherzer averaged 15.5 pitches per inning in 2017 and tonight finished at 11.33 pitches per inning which was over 4 less pitches per inning than his 2017 average. That low pitch count allowed Davey Martinez to send his ace back in for the 9th inning for the complete game. Surprisingly, before Scherzer signed with the Nationals, he only had one complete game to his record, and that was a label he once had that he could not complete games, and he now has 8 of them in his short-time with the Nationals.
In contrast, just five days ago Scherzer faced these same Atlanta Braves and he had to throw 22 pitches per inning and was pulled after the 5th inning and 110 pitches and a loss staring him in the face. The difference Scherzer said that he played to the Braves aggressiveness early in counts tonight while he made a mechanical tweak staying on top of the ball. It worked to something close to perfection sans the two hits in a final line that created a Game Score of 93 which ranked higher than Scherzer’s triumphant 20 K outing in 2016 when he only had an 87 Game Score.
There seems to be a correlation between pitch efficiency and pitch-to-contact. Whatever the secret formula is — it needs to be bottled up and put on the shelf with a stopper in it which was metaphorically Scherzer on this night stopping the losing streak.