Sep 19, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
The meeting was brief, tense and essentially spoke volumes of what Max Scherzer is all about.
In the seventh inning of a 2-2 game with two outs and a man on second base, Nationals manager Matt Williams made a visit to the mound — not so much to remove his ace, but more so to see if he felt good enough to face the Marlins’ best hitter, Dee Gordon, to get the final out of the inning.
It didn’t take long before the skipper got his answer.
“I asked him ‘Do you want him?’ and he said, ‘Yeah’, among other things,” said a grinning Williams. “I don’t know if you can read lips.”
For those watching at home, the message was pretty loud and clear. Television cameras caught the Nats’ $210 million man appearing to use some colorful language during his impassioned plea to finish the inning.
“Some yelling, some four letter words and ‘I want the ball’ is basically the gist of it,” Scherzer said of the exchange.
The 31-year-old right hander repaid his manager’s trust by retiring Gordon to keep things tied, a key moment in what eventually was a 5-4 extra-inning win. And in typical fashion, he fist-pumped his way back to the dugout, hooting and hollering as he gave violent high-fives to teammates and coaches alike.
It was just the latest example of how demonstrative Scherzer can get during his starts. Whether it’s stalking the mound after strikeouts, shouting out teammates after big defensive plays or dousing them with chocolate syrup after big wins (a celebratory custom that finally returned after Jose Lobaton’s game-ending sac fly), there’s been no shortage of outward passion displayed during his first season in Washington. So nearly nine months to the day after he signed a seven-year contract with the Nats, Friday night’s episode didn’t exactly surprise anyone inside the clubhouse.
“I knew that was coming,” Jayson Werth said. “He’s a competitor. He wants the ball. He wants it in big spots. I knew if Matt made it all the way out there without signaling to the bullpen he was going to stay in the game. Just the type of guy he is.”
“I’ve done that for a while now,” Scherzer added. “I’ve done it to some pitching coaches and managers [Jim] Leyland and [Brad] Ausmus in the past. You just have to have the belief in yourself when your situations arise. I always know I still have my best bolt left. I know I’m good to go and I’m ready to face anybody in the league in that situation.”
The fiery conversation with Williams was a moment that was particularly uplifting considering its context. Much like the Nats, Scherzer’s season has tailed off quite a bit in the second half, especially after he put up first-half numbers that made him a potential NL Cy Young candidate. But even as Washington is fighting daily to stave off elimination from playoff contention, he showed the type of fight the team hopes to maintain through September — tragic numbers be damned.
“[It] was [the] biggest spot in the ball game,” he said. “I understand the importance of my job to be able to go out there and give the team a chance to win. In that situation, even though it’s a tie ballgame, I’m giving my team a chance to win and that’s where you’re able to do your job, it’s rewarding.”
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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