Scherzer proves stingy again
You can take your pick for your favorite Max Scherzer outing this season. Most folks will point to his 15-strikeout gem against the Pirates on May 20. Others will remind you about his eight scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts against the Rockies four weeks later.
Gerald Laird might choose one of those two, but he had a point to make about his last outing last Friday against the Angels, in which he gave up two runs in the opening inning, then shut them down for the next seven, striking out nine and walking none.
“I mean, that was one of those outings where in the past or early on in the year, he was struggling to get through five or six with four runs,” Laird said. “He gave up two and then just mowed from there. He kind of got in his groove and got his confidence going. It was eight innings, two runs that kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.”
Wednesday night in Chicago was another one of those nights. It’s just that the big test of an inning wasn’t early.
Scherzer gave up one mistake Wednesday, a fourth-inning slider that caught too much of the plate before it caught Kevin Youkilis’ home-run swing for a 1-0 White Sox lead. However, Scherzer did not give up the big inning to go with it. He came close, going to three full counts. Only Paul Konerko reached base out of it, getting a two-out single, before Scherzer stranded him by retiring Alex Rios.
Scherzer went to five full counts in his six innings, one big reason his pitch count climbed to 115 and his exit came one inning less than Leyland would’ve liked. Konerko’s single made him the only baserunner that came out of it.
Scherzer wasn’t happy about going to the full counts in the first place. He was happy to keep it at that.
“I think there were numerous times when it was 3-2 and I was still able to throw the changeup for a strike and collect an out in that situation,” Scherzer said. “When I can do that for the team, that’s usually when we get good results.”
His two big full-count outs around Youkilis’ home run both came on changeups, a pitch he indicated he had tweaked a bit.
“His command wasn’t very good today compared to his other starts, as far as quality strikes,” catcher Alex Avila said. “I think he would tell you that he struggled today falling behind guys, a lot more than he has been. At the same time, his stuff is so good that he can pitch in the middle of the plate sometimes and get away with it. But it’s tremendous concentration when he’s got three balls on a guy to be able to make a quality pitch.”
As good as Scherzer’s pitching has been for the past few months — he’s now 10-1 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 14 starts, allowing just 75 hits over 92 1/3 innings with 113 strikeouts — his September stretch is a different kind of effective. He has gone 19 innings since his last walk, a third-inning pass to Dewayne Wise in Comerica Park Sept. 1. He hadn’t gone back-to-back outings without a walk since July of last season, a 20 2/3-inning stretch with the All-Star break in between. He proved stingy with walks the following month, but gave up too much damage on hits.
These days, hitters aren’t producing much damage on him at all.
“He made one mistake and that the home run,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot that we did off him. When he throws over the plate, he’s tough and he’s been doing that for a few months now. That’s why his record is what it is and his strikeout numbers are what they are and everything is just there.”