Tuesday, October 4 2022
Max Scherzer back eye cropped 4/8/22

Max Scherzer back eye cropped 4/8/22

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It wasn’t a gem by any means, yet Max Scherzer more than lived up to his reputation as a gamer in his Mets’ debut, gutting out six solid innings on a night when the Nationals were making a lot of hard contact against his fastball.

In fact, he didn’t get a swing-and-miss on his fastball for the first time since 2010, yet there was no mystery about why. Scherzer admitted he pitched without his usual explosiveness because of his iffy hamstring.

“I pitched around the injury,” he said. “I felt 100%, but you’re always worried that you might hurt something else if you go too hard.”

So Scherzer bobbed and weaved, spotted his fastball but used his off-speed stuff to keep the Nationals’ hitter off-balance. He gave up a two-run bomb of a home run to Josh Bell but otherwise avoided any real damage, getting six strikeouts along the way.

Afterward, Buck Showalter just shook his head in admiration.

“He’s so much more of a pitcher than people realize,” the manager said.
“He has to pitch with a governor on (his fastball), and he hasn’t pitched in a game in 11 days, and he still gives you a performance like that.”

Scherzer’s effort, combined with a second straight night of clutch hitting, helped the Mets cruise to a 7-3 win over the Nationals as the good vibes around this team continue to grow.

Apr 8, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) covers his face after being hit by pitch while manager Buck Showalter (11) walks with him during the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsApr 8, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) covers his face after being hit by pitch while manager Buck Showalter (11) walks with him during the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 8, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) covers his face after being hit by pitch while manager Buck Showalter (11) walks with him during the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

And still all of that was at least somewhat overshadowed by a bench-clearing incident after Francisco Lindor was hit by a pitch up at his face, and likely saved from serious injury by the extended flap on the helmet that seemed to take the brunt of the blow.

“I’m lucky,” Lindor said afterward. “I feel good. But most of all I’m proud to be a New York Met. I got hit, I was on the ground and I looked up and the entire team was out there on the field. The entire coaching staff.”

Yes, after getting three players hit on Thursday night, the Mets were howling mad, no one more so than Showalter who stormed out of the dugout screaming at Nats’ righthander Steve Cishek, as both benches emptied.

Showalter knew Cishek wasn’t trying to hit Lindor, yet he was still steamed after the game.

“Throwing up that high, that can’t happen,” the manager said. “After four times I don’t care about intent.”

Showalter had already been carefully avoiding questions about retaliation before Friday’s game, but make no mistake, the Mets’ manager is as old-school as they come on these matters so it seemed likely somebody on the Nationals was going to pay.

However, Showalter also badly wants to get the Mets off to a strong start in his return to managing and may have worried about putting a win in jeopardy, especially since he said the umpires issued warnings after the benches cleared.

So there were no further fireworks as Drew Smith, Seth Lugo, and Sean Reid-Foley pitched the final three innings following Scherzer to close out the win and make the Mets 2-0 in the young season.

But knowing Showalter for about 30 years, going back to his days managing the Yankees, I’d be shocked if he didn’t have the Mets retaliate at some point, even if it’s later in the season when there won’t be as much attention paid or an automatic ejection at stake for one of his pitchers.

After all, I reminded Showalter about the confrontations he had as a young Yankees manager with Tony LaRussa, who used to say he had his own rules about retaliation: “You hit one of mine and I hit two of yours.”

“Yeah, we had a disagreement about that,” Buck said. “I didn’t like his math.”

So they went at it a couple of times when Showalter needed to show that he wouldn’t be bullied.

All these years later Showalter is fighting a different fight, wanting to establish a similar tone, not so much for himself but his new team that he knows underachieved the last two seasons.

He’s already made a huge impression for his attention to detail and his demand for professionalism, as has been evident in the unsolicited praise from so many players.

As Robinson Cano told me Thursday night, “I’ve been in the game a long time, and it’s easier when you have a manager who really knows the game. He doesn’t miss anything.”

Yet you can be sure the players are looking to Showalter now to see how this will be handled with the Nationals. They were ticked off Thursday night — you probably saw the video of Starling Marte gesturing from the dugout toward various Nationals’ players, holding up three fingers after Pete Alonso was hit near the face, the third HBP of the game.

Sometimes it’s a matter of creating a fighting spirit on a team, more figuratively than literally, especially a team that has been kicked around in recent years like the Mets.

So you can bet the book isn’t closed on this little dust-up with the Nationals.

Apr 8, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer (21) 2on the pitcher's mound during the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsApr 8, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer (21) 2on the pitcher's mound during the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 8, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer (21) 2on the pitcher’s mound during the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Just as you can bet the Mets are thrilled to have Scherzer on their side in any fight.

As one Mets’ person said, “I hate to say but a lot of guys these days probably wouldn’t have taken the ball this early in the season with an injury like that. His fastball was a little short but he still attacked hitters and threw inside on them. There aren’t many like him.”

Scherzer insisted it wasn’t such a big deal.

“I’ve done it before,” he said. “You can pitch around injuries. You just have to know how hard you can go.”

Hard enough, as it turned out. Which is plenty good enough for the Mets.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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