Nationals' Max Scherzer grinds out five innings in Game 7 start

ByDavid Schoenfield via ESPN logo
Thursday, October 31, 2019

HOUSTON -- Three days ago, Max Scherzer could barely move his right arm. His wife had to help him get undressed. When he met with the media, he couldn't turn his neck and had to swivel around on the chair to each question after being scratched from his Game 5 start.

Three days and one cortisone shot later, after a chiropractic treatment and 103 pitches, he's a World Series champion.

Scherzer pitched the first five innings in the Washington Nationals' 6-2 victory Wednesday over the Houston Astros in Game 7, allowing two runs in a grinding, gutsy effort that will go down in World Series lore. The three-time Cy Young Award winner didn't win the game, but he kept the Nationals close, allowing his offense to make the late-game comeback as it scored six runs the final three innings.

An emotional Scherzer explained what the moment meant.

"One, to fight for my teammates -- everybody would have fought for me," the 35-year-old said. "And I have to give credit to my wife. I was in a bad spot when I woke up that morning. When I wasn't feeling too well, she said, 'Get healthy and go pitch Game 7.'"

The Nationals lost Game 5 when Joe Ross started in place of Scherzer, but they won Game 6 behind Stephen Strasburg to set up Scherzer for the dramatic Game 7 start against Zack Greinke, the first World Series Game 7 featuring opposing former Cy Young winners.

Scherzer's first pitch of the game was 97 mph, and he kept his fastball in the mid-90s throughout his five innings, but the Astros tagged him for six balls hit at 100 mph or more, including Yuli Gurriel's second-inning home run deep into the left-field seats. It was the second-most balls over 100 mph that Scherzer had allowed in a game this season.

Catcher Yan Gomes said he wasn't worried.

"You never worry when Max is on the mound," he said. "Today was one of those days where he had to get us out of some tough innings. They put together some really good at-bats against, but he kept us in the ballgame. He always gives 100 percent. He leads this team with his heart and his attitude."

The Astros had men on against Scherzer every inning, but had been 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position until Carlos Correa singled off the glove of a diving Anthony Rendon for an RBI single with two out in the fifth.

There was some good fortune involved as well. With two runners on in the second, after Gurriel had already homered in the inning, George Springer lined out on a 105 mph line drive right to left fielder Juan Soto to end the ininng. In the third inning with two out and two on, Yordan Alvarez hit a deep fly ball to center field.

Scherzer said he felt good on the mound Wednesday night.

"All the treatment the last couple of days, the doctors, it worked," he said. "I was out here able to pitch the way I can pitch, but that's a great team, and they grinded me apart."

Manager Dave Martinez said Scherzer wanted to go back out for the sixth inning.

"Max is a bulldog," he said. "But he had done enough. He kept us in the ballgame."

Some more Scherzer numbers from Game 7:

  • It took him 17 batters before recording his first strikeout, the longest it has taken him in any game since he joined the Nationals in 2015.
  • He threw 56% strikes (58 out of 103 pitches), his lowest rate of the season.
  • He walked four batters for just the second time this season.

Patrick Corbinreplaced Scherzer to begin the sixth inning and pitched three scoreless innings;Daniel Hudsonclosed it out with a 1-2-3 ninth. And how's this for a one-two punch: The Nationals went 10-0 this postseason in games started by Scherzer and Strasburg.

Scherzer then watched his team rally.

"What a team. What a game," he said. "Just everyone up and down the lineup grinding it out. Corbin coming in throwing those three shutout innings. Huddy closing the door. Clutch base hits. The baseball we've played over this last month has been unreal. The team, what we've done together and stayed together, it's a moment you'll never forget."