When I saw Washington’s rotation lined up for this weekend, I was stunned to see what appeared on my computer screen. Max Scherzer is pitching the fourth game? Why? It made no sense.
At first, I credited it too the revenge factor. Back when the Phils were the dominant team, fans would create an ocean of red at National’s Park. I thought maybe the Nats wanted to make the Phillies pay by putting their true ace on the bump for the opener. I talked myself out of it.
The righty was having trouble with a knuckle on his throwing hand, so the team thought they would hold him off a couple of extra days. Now, they will have Scherzer and Strasburg on back-to-back days for the foreseeable future. Whatever the reason, the home opener that is normally reserved for pomp and circumstance will be filled with nerves and the possibility of complete dominance.
Scherzer is not just your run of the mill ace. He is a guy with a legitimate chance to shut a team out or force a team hitless on any given night. In 2016, his age 31 season, the righty dominated to a 20-7 record, 2.96 ERA, and a ridiculous 0.97 WHIP in 228.1 innings. It was good enough to land him fifth place on the Cy Young ballot.
The 2015 Cy Young winner boasts a fastball, slider, changeup, curveball, and cutter. Hitters have the most luck against his fastball. Their average? .218 and no, that is not a joke. He earned 145 of his 284 strikeouts using the fastball, but was able to use his slider, change, and curve for an additional 154 K’s. And in case you are wondering whether or not he walks a ton, he doesn’t. He walked only 54 batters in those nearly 230 innings.
I wish there was some theory or secret on how the Phillies can best Scherzer this Friday. The only hope is to catch the few mistakes he does make and deposit them in the bleachers. Scherzer has shown aptness to the long ball since coming to the NL. It will not be easy to work counts into their favor, but if he gets ahead of hitters, Scherzer is incredibly lethal.
Other than that, all I’ve got is…good luck, boys.