5 things to watch from Max Scherzer tonight
While you’re waiting for the game tonight, let’s consider the dichotomy of Max Scherzer’s two meetings with the A’s this season, and what it means for his keys this evening to start off the AL Division Series.
Both outings, April 12 at Oakland (his second start of the season) and August 29 at Comerica Park, saw A’s hitters swinging early and often against him. In the first outing, that aggressive approach resulted in 11 strikeouts over six innings. In August, is resulted in two home runs and five earned runs over five innings, in which he threw 101 pitches.
What’s the difference, and what’s to watch from him tonight. Here’s a handful of things:
- Foul balls: The A’s fouled off 23 pitches from him over those five innings in August, nearly triple their total of swings and misses (eight). That’s how Scherzer ended up with more than 100 pitches in just five innings for the only time all season. A lot of those were fastballs, which is still the base for Scherzer’s arsenal. If the A’s are fouling off a ton of those early, he’s going to have to make an adjustment.
- Curveballs: Neither outing saw Scherzer throw his curve effectively for strikes. Out of the seven he threw in April, only one was a strike, and that was a foul ball. He threw 13 in August, five for strikes, but no whiffs, four foul balls, and one put in play for a hit. It’ll be interesting to see how many he throws this time, and how that mix changes the second time through the order.
- First-inning pitch count: The A’s milked 25 pitches out of him in the opening inning in April, and 29 in August. In both cases, he only walked one batter in the first inning. In neither outing did he get through an inning in 10 pitches or less, so it’s going to be very difficult for him to get his pitch count back in order after a long inning.
- Fastball command: In the August matchup, Scherzer threw 43 of his 56 pitches for strikes, 34 of those inducing swings. That’s better than a 75% strike rate. However, he got more balls put in play than hits.
- Extra-base hits: Six of the eight hits off Scherzer in the August game went for extra bases. Three of the five hits off Scherzer in the April meeting did, too.