As the standing ovation for his 3,000th career strike grew louder, Max Scherzer came to rest on the mound. He took off his cap, threw the souvenir ball towards the canoe and immediately went back to work.
M. Efficiency, indeed.
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No time to waste in September, your new team is in the playoff race and there is a job to finish.
Scherzer struck out Eric Hosmer on catches in the fifth inning to reach the milestone for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 8-0 win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
“Anyone can have the capacity to do it,” Scherzer said, “but few have the sustainability to do it.”
On his way to becoming the 19th pitcher to join the 3,000-strikeout club, Scherzer came within five strikeouts of the second perfect game in Dodgers history. He would have put his name next to Sandy Koufax, who achieved the feat on September 9, 1965.
Scherzer has matched Koufax in one respect. He had a flawless end in the second, striking out the side on nine shots. It was the third of his career, tied with Koufax and Chris Sale as the only pitchers with so much.
“You want to go out and finish it,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”
At 37, Scherzer still possesses the speed, mix of height and competitive fire that propelled his big-league career. He touched the mid-90s against the Padres, throwing back-to-back fastballs at Trent Grisham who clocked 97 and 98 mph in the fourth inning.
“I expect nothing less from him,” said teammate Mookie Betts.
The defending World Series champions Dodgers were already full of talent when they picked up Scherzer at the July trade deadline with Washington teammate Trea Turner.
Led by 17-game winner Julio Urías, 14-game winner Walker Buehler and most recently Scherzer, the pitchers have carried the attack-hungry Dodgers for much of the season despite injuries that have led to many games in the bullpen.
Clayton Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner as Scherzer, returns to the rotation on Monday. He has been out for over two months with inflammation of his left forearm.
David Price, 2012 AL Cy Young award winner, returns to the reliever pen after serving as a starter in injuries that included the loss of Dustin May for the season and Tony Gonsolin for several weeks .
Another of the Dodgers’ big acquisitions hasn’t worked at all.
A day before Kershaw’s fall on July 3, Trevor Bauer was put on administrative leave with pay by Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association. A San Diego woman said the pitcher strangled her until she passed out and repeatedly punched her in two sexual encounters earlier this year. Representatives for Bauer said what happened was consensual. MLB and the union extended her leave last week until the World Series ended in November.
Scherzer’s impressive run in his first eight games with the Dodgers has helped refocus attention on the pitch.
He pitched 29 2/3 innings with no earned run and is 6-0 with a 0.88 ERA, the lowest for a pitcher in his first eight starts with a team since the statistic became official baseball in 1913. Overall, Scherzer has won 10 in a row – having not lost since May 30 in Milwaukee – and is 14-4 this season. His 2.17 ERA leads the majors and he has 218 strikeouts in 27 starts.
“I can’t imagine it getting any better than this, especially where we are in the season,” said manager Dave Roberts.
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The Dodgers are 2 1/2 games behind leaders NL West San Francisco with 18 games to go in pursuit of a ninth straight division title.
Scherzer has avoided major injuries over his 14-year career, which has seen him rack up big numbers. He had six straight seasons of over 200 innings pitched from 2013 to 2018 with Detroit and Washington. He made at least 30 starts in 10 consecutive seasons ending in 2018.
“I firmly believe that the best capacity is uptime,” said Roberts. “There are a lot of talented guys out there who can’t stand the test of time. Guys can go out and have a few good seasons, but doing that year after year when the guys shoot you, it’s hard to do. “
Scherzer credits pitching coach Mark Prior and receivers Will Smith and Austin Barnes for his immediate success in Los Angeles.
“They understand how much I enjoy sequencing and throwing different throws in different accounts,” he said.
Scherzer won a World Series with the Nationals in 2019. He is eight times All-Star and is in contention, along with Urías and Buehler, to add a fourth Cy Young to his resume.
“I hope I go out there and keep throwing,” he said, “and keep imagining more things to do.”