LOS ANGELES Max Scherzer gives it his best shot.
When Dodgers manager Dave Roberts walked onto the mound and extended his right hand to pick up a baseball from Scherzer, who had guided the National League wild-card game to a 1–1 tie in the fifth inning, the Cage veteran hit Roberts. to baseball. Instead, he offered a handshake.
Roberts seized the ball for himself. Relief pitcher Joe Kelly reached Scherzer’s gloves while jogging from the bullpen. Scherzer’s grin said a lot as he turned to walk to the Mona Lisa dugout in polyester.
Standing shirtless on the field after the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Scherzer said, “The Doctor makes extensive preparations of where he wants his men in different situations.” “Even though I was good in that position, he felt that was the right matchup for that specific time. I’m here to win. So that’s it. I have to trust my manager to make the right call to the ball club.” Whatever I felt, it’s right to call him.”
With runners at first and second base and with one out, Kelly fielded Nolan Arenado in a forceout, then dismissed Dylan Carlson to end the innings.
“We won the ball game,” said Scherzer, “so that’s all that matters.”
The Dodgers selected Shazer to pitch him in the NL Division Series. On the surface, the task was simple enough: Scherzer, a Missouri native, had to defeat the rising Cardinals in Wednesday’s winner-take-all case.
But the anticipated pitchers’ duel between Scherzer and Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright was less a battle of precision pitching than a test of intelligence.
Both pitchers at times struggled with tight strike zones called for by home plate umpire Joe West. Scherzer leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball and slider. Against a lineup with a right-hander, he would later say, “Those are two of my best pitches.” The right-hander barely bowled his changeup, curveball or cut fastball, and did not record swings and misses on any of the three pitches.
“I couldn’t find that big swing and miss with my makeover,” he said. “So go with your bread and butter.”
Scherzer’s final line looked personally better on paper: 4⅓ innings, three hits allowed, and only one earned run. The three-time Cy Young Award winner walked three batsmen – more than he did in any of his first 11 as Dodgers – and scored four.
Most of all, Scherzer worked. He needed 94 pitches to record 13 outs. Wainwright himself only lasted an innings of 5⅓. But after scoring in the first inning of St. Louis, Scherzer didn’t let the second runner go past second base until Roberts’ luck ran out to his glove.
“I think when really talented pitchers go out and they spin a really good game, it’s fun to sit back and watch,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “But what I’m really amazed at are the few pitchers who aren’t there that night and have been able to keep their team in the game – not allowing a crooked number and making it a game that comes back more.” Was tough, to keep it up to one run, I think that speaks to what a true ace he is.”
The Cardinals got their only run against Scherzer – ultimately their only run of the game – when leadoff man Tommy Edman hit a single into right field and drove from station to station until home plate was reached.
Scherzer went past Paul Goldschmidt on six pitches before Edman stole second base. A fly ball was deep enough in the right-field corner to tag Edman in and reach third base. Then with Nolan Arenado at the plate, a slider in the dirt got away from Dodgers catcher Will Smith. For Edman the ball deflected the catcher easily enough to score from third base.
The strike zone, Scherzer said, didn’t work against him.
“The strike zone was tight, consistent for both sides,” he said. “There’s only one call I really thought I wanted. Joe worked consistently well on both sides behind the plate. That’s all you can ask for.”
Until Chris Taylor’s two-run, walk-off home run against Alex Reyes at the bottom of the ninth inning, it was unclear whether Scherzer would start another game in Dodgers uniform. He is a free agent season after season.
Now, Friedman said, Scherzer is likely to be a Game 3 starter when it comes to the best-of-five NLDS Los Angeles.
In the post-season 23 games (19 starts), Scherzer has a 3.33 ERA.
“We’re going to lean on Max the rest of the postseason,” Roberts said. “I realized in that moment (fifth innings) that it was the right decision. I never expect her to be happy (about to come out from the beginning), but that was my call. ”
It served as a rebound from Scherzer’s previous two outings, when he allowed five earned runs to the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers won both games, but Scherzer’s veil of invincibility fell. He was 7-0 with a 0.78 ERA in his first nine after coming to the Dodgers in trade with the Nationals on July 30. He conceded 11 runs in the last two 10-1/3 innings.
The memory of Scherzer’s recent past was ubiquitous on Wednesday. Sitting in the first row behind home plate, the Washington Nationals wore Scherzer’s number 31 national jersey while hitting coach Kevin Long. Over two seats, his former national teammate Juan Soto wore Tree Turner’s number-7 national jersey.
After Taylor’s home run game ended, Scherzer emerged from a convoy of blue jerseys leaving the Dodgers clubhouse. He found Soto and Long and rushed to offer a high-five, before joining his teammates on the field for a postgame celebration.
Best wishes for the rest <3 pic.twitter.com/usRv8rH3hr
– cut 4 (@ cut 4) October 7, 2021