Game 37: Scherzer displays his best stuff
Brad Ausmus thought this might have been Max Scherzer near his best.
“This might have been the best his stuff has been all year, really,” Ausmus said.
Scherzer thought he could have been better.
“I didn’t have my changeup,” Scherzer said. “I didn’t like where my changeup was, but I thought both my breaking balls [slider and curveball] were very good tonight. It’s always going to drive me crazy when I don’t throw first-pitch strikes and when I’m walking guys, so that’s my first telltale sign of pitching well. And when I’m walking three in six innings, and I’m barely above 50 percent on first-pitch strikes, that’s something I’m always frustrated with, because I know it’s a process.”
That’s the perfectionist in Scherzer, which is what has pushed him the past couple years to get to this point. That’s also the same pitcher who used that changeup he didn’t have to get one of his biggest outs of the game, striking out Mike Napoli watching it to end the sixth inning.
“It just didn’t have the action it typically had,” Scherzer said. “But in that situation, the whole night I had shown him fastball-slider, and I thought, ‘If I could execute a good changeup right here, this is the pitch.’
Scherzer threw 11 out of 19 changeups for strikes, according to brooksbaseball.net, including eight swings. By contrast, he got a dozen swings and misses on the night from fastballs, sliders and curveballs. In fact, hitters swung and missed at the curveball three out of five times.
He started off hitters with plenty of curveballs and sliders, which shows some confidence that he can get ahead with it.
“I thought my slider was much better today,” Scherzer said. “I had much better feel for it. I actually thought my curveball was really good. I made an adjustment on my curveball. I was able to start throwing that for strikes then throw it below the zone for strikeouts. It was great to see where that pitch was.”
Scherzer did not get a swing and miss off his changeup, according to brooksbaseball.net. That’s the first time he has come up empty in that category since his last regular-season start here last Sept. 3. On the flip side, his three whiffs on curveballs are more than he has ever gotten from that pitch in his career. As good as the curveball has become for him, it has only been good for one or two swings and misses a game.
If he can have that kind of mix, he shouldn’t need to worry about his game long-term. That said, Friday might well go down as a huge outing for his future.
He not only outpitched another soon-to-be free agent starting pitcher in Jon Lester, he did so with time to spare. He pitched in a difficult ballpark for pitchers without serious damage. And he restrained left-handed hitters, the key of opponents that troubled him until last year.
“I didn’t pitch my best,” Scherzer said, “but when runners were on base and I needed big pitches, I made big pitches. That’s the difference in the game. We got dicey there in the sixth, got myself into a corner and fortunately I was able to collect a big double play and get a big strikeout. That was the difference in the game.”