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Scherzer’s woes continue in loss to Mets

Sep 7, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT

USA Today

Throughout the first half of the season Max Scherzer was the lone bright spot for a Nationals rotation that was expected by many to be among the very best. Somehow he managed to look like a better pitcher after signing a record free agent contract to come to Washington.

But that has simply not been the case in the second half of the season and particularly as of late. The Nats right-hander has seen his trademark command elude him and the results have featured a staggering uptick in home runs.

Scherzer’s problems continued on Monday in what amounted to the biggest game of the Nats’ season so far, a series opener against the first-place New York Mets. The Nationals needed Scherzer to be at his best in what was a favorable pitching matchup. He was anything but.

Scherzer made it through six innings, but gave up five earned runs on seven hits, including three homers. He lasted six innings, giving up a run in each of his last three frames.

Scherzer pointed to the location of his pitches as the biggest reason he is giving up so many homers, in particular. The former Cy Young-winner has now allowed 14 of them in his last nine starts.

“I’m just making mistakes in the zone. I’m leaving the ball thigh-high instead of getting the ball down at the knees. That’s something that’s been symptomatic here, it seems like, in the second half. That’s something I got to get better at. I got to get better at getting the ball down in the zone, getting it back down to knee level. That’s what’s gonna keep me up late tonight is figuring out how I should do that,” he explained.

The Nationals spotted Scherzer with a two-run lead after the fourth inning, but it wasn’t enough. That fact was not lost on the Nats’ starter.

“I’m just disappointed I wasn’t able to hold that lead. That’s something I take pride in is when you get a lead like that and your offense wakes up and responds. – [Wilson Ramos] hits a big grand slam and we go up 5-3. I take pride in just putting up those zeroes to be able to turn it over to the bullpen. It’s extremely frustrating that I wasn’t able to do that,” Scherzer said.

Scherzer allowed two solo home runs in the second inning to Michael Conforto and Kelly Johnson. The third was also a solo shot, a high flyball hit by Yoenis Cespedes to lead off the fourth.

Scherzer gave up his fourth run on a double by Curtis Granderson in the fifth. His spot in the order would come up in the bottom half of the frame with the Nats nursing a one-run lead. There were two outs and runners in scoring position.

Instead of going to his bullpen, manager Matt Williams opted to let Scherzer bat and go one more inning. Scherzer was at 89 pitches, but had already given up four runs through five innings. The decision backfired.

Scherzer made good contact with a pitch from Carlos Torres, but it went right to Johnson at second base. He then ran into more trouble while on the mound in the sixth.

Cespedes got to Scherzer again by leading off with a double. He would then reach third on a balk called on Scherzer by home plate ump Paul Nauert. That allowed Cespedes to score and tie the game on a lineout to left field by Travis d’Arnaud.

Here is how Scherzer described the balk:

“He said my hands moved somehow. I don’t know. I looked at replay, I really don’t think they moved but that was his opinion. I knew from the previous two pitches … I had an inclination Cespedes was gonna try to steal. So I had a long hold. When he went, it didn’t really fluster me at all. I just turned my head and looked and the umpire called me for a balk.”

Williams was asked multiple times about the decision to leave Scherzer in there for the sixth after the 8-5 loss. It was a call that could have gone either way, but ended up biting him.

“[Scherzer’s] our No. 1 for a reason,” he said. “I’m hoping that he would get through that. Righty, starting it off. And Cespedes started it off with a double. And then the balk. And then the sac fly. He’s our best option in the sixth. He’s our horse going out there.”

Scherzer has now given up four earned runs or more in four of his last six outings. He had a 2.11 ERA through 18 starts (132 IP) before the All-Star break. In his 10 starts since he has a 5.12 ERA (58 IP).

The expectations of regular dominance from Scherzer have almost become a distant memory at this point. At one point this season he was quite easily their best starter. Lately he’s been one of their weakest links.

  1. NatsLady - Sep 7, 2015 at 6:52 PM

    Tell Bryce I was there until the end. So were most of the people in my section and in the sections around, standing almost all of the 9th inning. It was very crowded leaving (and hot). Metro is single-tracking the Blue/Orange/Silver lines so I took the bus. It takes longer (though not that much when there is limited train service) but the Quality of Life is immensely better.

    I don’t know why Matt didn’t pinch hit for Scherzer. I wonder if he is intimidated by him, seriously.

    I don’t know why he used so many pitchers. It was as if he wanted us to know he was “managing” by the number of pitching changes he made. Thornton and Janssen are former closers, then can get opposite-hand batters out (or SHOULD be able to), Treinen was a starter, SAME. Rivero could have been considered a LOOGY, but he’s be better with RHB’s lately.

    Bottom line, when their line up is R/L/R/L ad infinitum, you need to identify a guy (Treinen?) and stick with him for a few batters. Not impressed!

    Good job by Martin.

  2. NatsLady - Sep 7, 2015 at 6:56 PM

    Also, I’m dubious about the Harvey plan. When Rizzo did the Stras shutdown, one thing he said was he didn’t think it was wise to shut Stras down in August and then try to gear him up in October. He wanted Stras to be on his normal schedule, and then be shut down and rest and heal for the off-season. From what I’ve read about pitchers’ routines, I don’t know if 10-day or more layoffs are the wisest idea. Well, we shall see.

    • Section 222 - Sep 7, 2015 at 9:47 PM

      I agree with both of your comments NL. Well put.

    • Tyson - Sep 7, 2015 at 11:46 PM

      He wouldn’t be shut down…. he would be following his same routine with all of his side work, just not making the starts. Also remember, Strasburg was obviously fried at the end of that season- ERA over 6 in his last 3 starts…. Harvey has an ERA under 2 in his last 9. Had Harvey and Boras communicated the hard cap to the Mets, they would have skipped him earlier- as is, they tried twice to go to 6 man rotations, with Harvey being the loudest detractor. What made this a mess was Boras going public. Harvey says he feels great, he’s pitching great, they’ve handled him phenomenally all year (only 4 starts on regular rest, only 110+ pitches once), he had 7 more months of recovery than the typical TJ patient and he has a huge amount of innings under 15 pitches. I think that the agents interference here is actually the biggest danger to Harvey. Innings aren’t the issue, it’s rhythm and fatigue. And yes, while the change in routine isn’t as drastic as you suggested, it most certainly Is a change in rhtythm and may hebworseem for him than if he just continued through. We’ll see what happens. Either way, if the Nats don’t stay close, they’ll have a lot of flexibility on how to handle it.

      • sec112 - Sep 8, 2015 at 12:16 AM

        There is zero chance that Boras said what he said without Harvey’s approval. It is most likely he said it to enable Harvey NOT to have to say it.

  3. Candide - Sep 7, 2015 at 6:59 PM

    A lot of Mets fans in our section left after the 7th. Apart from that, we still had good attendance right up to the end in 219.

    But Bryce, never call out your fans. Just don’t do it. 😟 😒 😕

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 7, 2015 at 7:09 PM

      The right side of the field gets the sun monster. Bryce doesn’t have to sit over there for 3 hours. He gets breaks in between.

      Bryce didn’t have a good day at the plate, maybe that was why he was frustrated and let his emotions get the best of him..

      *shrug*

    • Section 222 - Sep 7, 2015 at 9:48 PM

      +1 to both of you. Fan shaming is a sign of losers. Love you Bryce, but it’s a very bad idea to criticize your fans after losing such a big game. Give me a break.

      I stayed to the end by the way. Got to see Bryce K in the 9th. Big deal.

    • Tyson - Sep 7, 2015 at 11:49 PM

      I agree that fighting the fans is an unwinnable battle – but he’s speaking the truth. I was there today, and there was a mass exodus after the 7th. As a new yorker, I was stunned. The die hard stayed, bit let’s be honest here- D.C just isn’t a baseball town, and the die hard are few and far between.

      • Nats Fan Zee - Sep 8, 2015 at 7:48 AM

        I saw a number of people leave section 140 too, BUT, many had small children (infant to maybe 5) and they were in the sun, it was a long game and they were done … Both attention wise and UV wise. Not fair to put this on the fans … Many other family choices Labor Day and for families with young kids, there is school to prepare for the next day.

        This is not the first time Bryce has taken a fan shot … Back in 2013 I remember one August night waiting over an hour ( longer I think) for a rain delay. When the game was resumed, lots of folks left but not us. Next day Bryce was on the fans case. I agree the 3 K’s likely irritated him a bit …. He has been magnificent so he gets a pass from us!

  4. senators5 - Sep 7, 2015 at 7:02 PM

    and how much is Scherzer making this year? and the next? and the next and so on……..

  5. fpa4356 - Sep 7, 2015 at 7:05 PM

    “He’s our horse out there.” MW all but admitted that it did not matter what was happening in the game, Scherzer was going to be out there for the 6th, come hell or today’s version, another double from Cespedes.

    • exposremains - Sep 7, 2015 at 7:38 PM

      I can’t believe he said that. That s exactly why he has nothing left in the tank because you left him in too much when it didn’t matter. Because he’s your horse you left him no matter what, he’s been awful for over month. Whar you thougt that suddenly after 89 awful pitches he would be good.Shame on Rizzo for building an awful bullpen. Shame on Lerners for not allowing to get players at the trade deadline. Just a pathetic group all around. Ramos gives you all the confidence you need and you crap all over it. No wonder people left. Its game 137, they know how it will turn out.

    • npb99 - Sep 7, 2015 at 9:53 PM

      “[Scherzer’s] our No. 1 for a reason,” he said.

      Doesn’t MW evaluate performance based on what he’s seeing on the field? Or can’t he escape the cliche-thinking that seems to dominate how he manages? If a player is struggling, it doesn’t matter whether he was a pre-season Cy Young favorite, or a journeyman, you should make the call that works best at the time.

  6. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 7, 2015 at 7:06 PM

    MW really thinks we are stupid. Cant believe he said that.

    We must be watching different games…

  7. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 7, 2015 at 7:59 PM

    So Bryce Harper is concerned the fans left after the 7th? Watching on my little iPad I couldn’t tell.

    But it did seem — both from the box score and from MLB.tv — that most of the team left after the 4th.

    • Sam - Sep 7, 2015 at 9:03 PM

      +1

      I laughed out loud.

  8. philipd763 - Sep 7, 2015 at 8:32 PM

    I would not be the least bit surprised to at some point read that Scherzer is having elbow or shoulder problems. That could explain his performance collapse.

    • wmlsays - Sep 7, 2015 at 8:36 PM

      Max is a stand up guy. He admits his mistakes. Good for him. To bad the keep losing when he pitches. Cy Young? Not this year. His ERA is over three. There are a LOT of pitchers better than Scherzer at the moment. Another great move by the great, superbly awesome, unmatched baseball genius, Mike Rizzo.

      • Karl Kolchak - Sep 7, 2015 at 11:32 PM

        Rizzo has indeed done a terrible job giving out big contracts. Werth, Zimmerman, Soriano and now Scherzer have all failed to live up to the huge deals that were given them. Yes they’ve had some great individual moments, but on the whole their play has been worth far less than what they are getting paid.

    • pchuck69 - Sep 7, 2015 at 8:51 PM

      I agree. I don’t think he’s healthy.

  9. breakbad1 - Sep 7, 2015 at 9:47 PM

    DON’T tell Bryce I was there till the end. Tell him I have tickets for tomorrow and Wednesday but I will not be in attendance. I simply will not be insulted by my own player, when I’ve spent TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars to watch him this season.

    When the Orioles won the World Series with Cal, they averaged around 13,000 fans a game. I can find no record of an event when Cal cut them down.

    Today Bryce cut us down, when he and his teammates did almost nothing to win the game. He cut us down.

    Get lost Harper. Sooner the better.

    • BatBoy - Sep 7, 2015 at 9:56 PM

      GYFNG! Got this with JZim! Max has to have injury problems, or, another Nut Case!!!! And, Wiliams, really, Janssen, again, ???

    • Tyson - Sep 7, 2015 at 11:55 PM

      You were there the whole game? Then surely you saw what he did (and what I did). If you stayed, then he’s not insulting you at all. And C’mon -it doesn’t kill you to see thousands of people streaming out of there in the biggest game of the year against a team that also has a crap bullpen with their setup guy unavailable? That was a disgrace, and I’m surprised that as a die hard who’s spending tons of dough and doing right by your club, that those quitters don’t bother you too.

      • sec112 - Sep 8, 2015 at 12:12 AM

        I was surprised and disappointed by the size of the exodus after the 7th (though I agree with 222 below on people having their own reasons that we can not know). I was also surprised by the number of empty seats, and the large number of Met fans. It was sometimes confusing if you missed a play because the cheers were almost as loud for when something good happened for the Mets as they were when good things happened for the Nats. I kept wondering if there would be similar numbers of Nats fans in NY for the series at the end of the season – if that series is meaningful.

        All that said – there was nothing done by the fans that deserved a calling out. That’s just immaturity. I’m a big Harper fan, but he came up in the 9th trying to hit a three run homer when there was only one runner on. And he swung at at least two balls from what I could see. That’s not good baseball and he knows it.

        Don’t take your frustration out on the fans, Bryce. Learn from your mistake and do better next time, and you can be sure we’ll be cheering, loudly, when you do – even if it’s in the 9th inning.

  10. rmoore446 - Sep 7, 2015 at 10:27 PM

    I stayed to the very end as did my nine and six year old grandsons. As recall that end included a weak Bryce strikeout. There was a wave of folks leaving after the 7th and into the 8th. The Mets fans, alas, generally stuck around to cheer and mock.

    There was great energy early in the game for Nats fans and then a real peak when the Nats took the lead. But Scherzer began dribbling back that lead until the game was tied. Everyone around me wondered at Williams leaving him in to hit. As Collins changed pitchers at that point, MW had plenty of time to think it through Again he has these frozen mindsets (“he is our horse”) that keeps him from realizing his horse was hot, lathered, and smelling the barn. As the Mets built a lead, we kept cheering but the spirit wasn’t the same.

    I don’t think think the race is over by any means but I’d feel better if MW would demonstrate a better feel for the game and get away from his painting by the numbers. Yesterday he did use Storen and Pap in a non-save situation and I hoped he was loosening up a bit.

  11. snopes1 - Sep 7, 2015 at 10:29 PM

    Harper has no idea who was leaving and who was just going up to stand on the concourse to watch the game and get out of the sun.

    • Section 222 - Sep 7, 2015 at 11:12 PM

      Exactly right. Or whose kid was sick and overheated and needed to leave. Or who need to look in on an ailing parent by 5 pm and had an hour drive ahead. Or, or, or. It’s bad enough when other fans complain about their fellow fans, but when millionaires who have their every need attended to do it, it’s disgusting. Walk a mile in our shoes Bryce, before you judge.

  12. golfersal - Sep 7, 2015 at 10:54 PM

    Sorry but when a guy gets a contract for $230 million he can’t have a month and a half of bad outings. What is really sad, Jordan Zimmerman has been a steady rock for the Nats since 2010 and he is given the door by Nats managment. I bet that the Nats could of gotten Zimmerman for a lot cheaper price than Max and we could of gone on without spending all this money on Max.
    The Nats are a mess right now and there is a lot of folks to blame. Since Max makes like $750,000 for every game he pitches, maybe on his next start at Nats Park he could give us season ticket holders, who are seeing are tickets go up from $45 to $65 next year a price of your $750,000. We have earned it watching you pitch the last five weeks.

    • Karl Kolchak - Sep 7, 2015 at 11:27 PM

      +1. The ticket price increase really pisses me off…and I wonder if getting hit with it while the team in in the process of an epically disappointing season isn’t the reason attendance has been underwhelming the past few weeks.

      I’m sticking with my ST group for next year, but another price increase and I’m out.

    • oldtownatsfan - Sep 7, 2015 at 11:41 PM

      Nats have been trying to sign Zimmermann to a long-term deal since at least 2013…I have no idea whether the offers were fair, but I wouldn’t say they’ve shown him the door.

      But I completely agree on ticket prices. Most of my season ticket group felt they couldn’t stomach the increase, so now it looks like we’ll be closing the book on a five-year tradition.

      If that money is used wisely for locking up our young talent, I’d feel better about it. Fat chance, since Boras seems to represent every young star on our team…

  13. Steve silock - Sep 8, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    The pitching coach has to go….

  14. Doc - Sep 8, 2015 at 9:19 AM

    Scherzer is a horse that MW has ridden too hard.

    • micksback1 - Sep 8, 2015 at 10:48 AM

      probably true and unfortunate, the horse was ridden to hard by the horses ass, lol

  15. micksback1 - Sep 8, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    Max, you stole part of that 210 million pay check yesterday buddy boy!

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