Game 24: Scherzer throws Twins a curve
Max Scherzer did little to dampen his strikeout rate Monday, fanning 10 Minnesota Twins over 7 1/3 innings. Neither Justin Morneau nor Joe Mauer accounted for any of them.
That’s fine for Scherzer. More important for him, they didn’t account for any hits. You can make the case that had more of an impact on his bottom line than the strikeouts.
Alex Avila didn’t want to choose which was more important.
“Both,” he said.
Morneau and Mauer are a major reason why Scherzer had a 5.40 career ERA and a 3-2 record in nine starts against the Twins over the last three years. They were a combined 13-for-30 with four home runs and five walks.
Scherzer has been progressively better against the Twins with each season. A big reason has been his success against Minnesota’s left-handed hitters, including those two. On Monday, he had a curveball for them.
Actually, he had several of them. That, he says, was his answer. It has been largely a show-me pitch for him since last summer, but after an adjustment, it was a big pitch for him Monday.
“Honestly, it was my curveball tonight,” Scherzer said. “That’s a pitch I’ve really been working on. I knew coming that they have a lot of good left-handed hitters. In my bullpen session, [pitching coach Jeff Jones] gave me a little tip to help improve my grip so that I can be more consistent with that pitch. It worked in the pen, so over the past couple days I’ve been throwing it. I thought this was going to be a good pitch for me tonight and it was.”
The data on MLB.com Gameday does not show a curveball, only sliders for breaking balls. The pitches around 79-82 mph, he said, were curveballs. There were up to a dozen of those on the data, according to brooksbaseball.net.
“I think I threw about 10-12 curveballs, and they were pretty consistent,” Scherzer said. “I don’t think I had any strikeouts on it. I was able to throw it for a strike where it was competitive or it was just missing. So for me, that threw a whole wrinkle in there that they had to now respect for me to be able to throw that curveball. I feel like when I can do that, it gives me a third pitch for a lefty that allows my fastball and changeup to be effective.”
Play of the game: It’s not difficult to make a good case for Prince Fielder’s go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning, but there’s an argument that Andy Dirks’ leadoff bunt single two batters earlier was the spark that started it all. It was a reaction to third baseman Trevor Plouffe playing back, and it put a runner on for Mike Pelfrey to worry about as he pitched against Miguel Cabrera.
“It’s taking advantage of what’s given to you,” said third-base coach Tom Brookens, who handles the bunting game.
Out of the game: Scherzer stayed in for the first batter of the eighth with the top of the Twins order coming up, pitting him against Brian Dozier with his pitch count already at 108. Scherzer had to go to a full count, but struck out Dozier swinging at a 94 mph fastball on his 114th and final pitch. With nobody on for Mauer, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit took it from there.