Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer Overcomes 2017 Demons; Records First Career Save
By Max Rayman
A blown lead. Dropped third strike. Catchers interference. A hit batter. Max Scherzer has come a long way since that dreadful October night.
October 12, 2017. Game 5 of the NLDS. In a tightly contested matchup between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs, their series had reached a pivotal winner-take-all Game 5. For the third time in five years, Washington found themselves in a do or die elimination game, and once again they were in the driver seat.
With a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth, Manager Dusty Baker handed the ball to his ace, Max Scherzer. The Future Hall of Famer was entering the game on two days rest, having pitched a gem in game three, only allowing one run across 6 2/3 innings. Scherzer walked through the bullpen gate and was greeted by the raucous Nationals crowd who were overjoyed to see their ace take the mound.
The Nationals faithful were starved for a playoff series win, with the team being vanquished in the NLDS in 2012, 2014, and 2016 and there was no one better to have on the mound than the best pitcher in baseball. However, once Scherzer toed the rubber and went into his windup, everything that could go wrong did. What transpired is one of the most heartbreaking performances in D.C. baseball history that can only be rivaled by Game 5 of 2012.
Scherzer recorded two quick outs before allowing three straight hits including a bases-clearing double that gave the Cubs the lead. After he intentionally walked Jason Heyward, he struck out Javier Baez. Unfortunately, the ball got away and the catcher’s throw got past a diving Ryan Zimmerman, allowing the runner on second to score. The next batter reached due to catcher’s interference, before Scherzer hit the next batter, making the score 7-4.
The Nationals went on to lose 9-8 and Scherzer was handed the loss. While the Nationals overcame their playoff demons in 2019, Scherzer had yet to vanquish his relief experience. Fast forward to last night and the Dodgers called upon their newly acquired ace to pitching the ninth inning. With a 2-1 lead, Scherzer was called on to attempt to record his first career save.
In years past, Scherzer is sometimes overamped when the stakes are the highest, but he finally found a way to keep his calm. He got Brandon Crawford to fly out to right before Kris Bryant reached on an error. Lamonte Wade Jr. struck out looking leading to the most controversial call of the night. Long time Met Wilmer Flores sauntered up to the plate to face his old NL East nemesis.
At the time of their matchup, Flores had yet to get a hit against Scherzer and was quickly overmatched by the latter’s heater. On an 0-2 count, Flores checked his swing, but was punched out, ending the game. Yet Flores did not go around and it seemed the umpire had checked out early. While the Giants season ended due to a check swing, Scherzer had finally overcome his 2017 fiasco, earning his first career save.