The Nats needed the best version of Max Scherzer, and he showed up as Cy Max at the right time going 7.0 innings of one run baseball for a huge 6-1 win to stave off elimination and send this back to Los Angeles for a “winner take all” game.
“I was gassed. I was just emptying the tank giving everything I had. … My arm is hanging right now,” Scherzer said. “That pushed me all the way to the edge — and then some.”
It was Ryan Zimmerman who delivered the big blow in the game with a moonshot three run home run that landed on the centerfield berm. That home run took a 2-1 game to 5-1. Most of the bats got going in this one with key hits from Howie Kendrick and Michael Taylor, and the top of the order as Trea Turner had three hits and Anthony Rendon was also a big RBI man in the game to attempt to push it out of reach — it seemed, but Scherzer did load the bases in the 7th inning and survived it by inches as Joc Pederson hit a ball down the line that was foul by an inch, and that is when you know you are living right.
“I caught a break with Pederson,” Scherzer said. “That ball’s an inch foul, it could have been an inch fair, but thankfully it was foul, and I was able to execute a changeup and was able to get out of a big situation.”
Max Scherzer gave up a home run in the first inning, but then went into Cy mode and threw a 6 1/3 inning shutout after that to quiet all the doubters who questioned if he could win a key postseason game after signing a $210 million record deal for a right-handed pitcher at that time with the Nationals. Scherzer delivered at the perfect time.
This game had dual stars with Scherzer and Zimmerman and really the whole lineup contributed in their supporting roles behind the elders. Max and Zim are considered in baseball terms “old men” at the ripe age of 35ish, and they used their baseball wisdom to guess right and execute in big spots.
“He’s been in the organization for so long, it was great to see him come through in a big moment,” Trea Turner said. “It makes you smile because of the journey he’s been through.”
Would it shock you to know that Zim’s “Miracle in the Mums” was exactly two years ago to this day? What is it about the guy we affectionately call “Mr. Walk-off” who steps up in some of the biggest moments when the rational side of your brain says “pinch-hit for him” like the cartoonish devil perched on one shoulder who is shouted down by the angel on the other. The wind was blowing by looking at the flags at that point in time, and Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez delivered that pitch with the hope that Zim would swing and miss, but instead of “would” it was “wood” and it was barreled up on his custom Lousiville Slugger C353 with an exit velo of 107.2 mph, and a steep 31 degree angle when it left the bat. That all equaled 3 RBIs once that Rawlings baseball landed 414 feet from it’s initial contact point.
These games have been cat and mouse games between the two managers. This is chess played out in real time, and there is no going back on a move. Dave Roberts has a deeper bench and bullpen than Davey Martinez does, and Roberts has dared the Nats to make a move at some point, and this is where the Nats players have had to execute, and Max Scherzer and his teammates did on this victorious night.
“In the playoffs, you have to get a couple lucky bounces,” said Zimmerman just six days ago. “I’ve seen it the other way where the other team gets a couple lucky bounces go their way. It’s a wacky game.”
Of course Zim is right about the bounces, and the game of inches. An inch up on the barrel and it is a popup and not a home run. An inch to the left it is a bases clearing double instead of a foul ball. That is baseball. Tonight, it was also the blueprint you wanted, and it went according to plan. What a win! The Nats will fly to Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon on a 3pm flight for Game 5, and the Nats are opening up the home stadium for a “Watch Party” under the stars.