Max Scherzer is not injured and expects to make his next start as scheduled, he said Saturday night, despite — and maybe because of — his early departure in the Mets’ 7-1 loss to the Nationals.
Fatigue in his left side forced him out after only five innings and a season-low 67 pitches, a decision he characterized as “a precautionary move.” He already missed seven weeks after straining his left oblique in May, an injury for which he held himself responsible. This time he wanted to be more careful, especially so late in the season.
“Even a little bit of risk was too much risk,” Scherzer said, describing it as “kind of the whole area” and not an oblique problem specifically. “You just couldn’t take any risks, especially where the calendar is at. There’s no time left to re-ramp back up. I think that played just as much of an important factor coming out after five.
“Was there a scenario where I could go out there and pitch the sixth and be OK? Yeah, that could’ve happened. But if I went out there in the sixth and I got hurt, there’s no way I could come in here and look the guys in the face and say I made the right decision.”
Manager Buck Showalter said: “He was very frank about what he was feeling. We reacted to what a really good pitcher who knows himself said.”
Scherzer is due to face the Marlins next weekend. “Better to be safe than sorry in this scenario,” he said. “Just rest up and get ready for the next start.”
Tasked with covering the final four innings in relief of Scherzer, the Mets’ bullpen had trouble. The deciding momentum shift came in the bottom of the eighth, when Francisco Lindor popped out to strand the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base, and the top of the ninth, when Adonis Medina turned a one-run game into a blowout by allowing five runs and getting one out.
A two-run single by rookie shortstop CJ Abrams, one of Washington’s prizes in its Juan Soto megadeal with the Padres last month, sent fans streaming for the exits. The remaining Citi Field crowd, originally 33,509, booed Jeff McNeil’s ensuing throwing error and Medina’s eventual slow walk from the mound after getting pulled.
Adam Ottavino gave up a go-ahead home run by Lane Thomas in the eighth. It was enough of a no-doubter that the righthander didn’t watch it fly past the leftfield wall and instead had his glove raised, asking plate umpire Jeff Nelson for a new ball, before the old one landed.
That was the fourth run allowed by Ottavino in the past two months. Three of those have come on solo shots.
While he was in the game, Scherzer was good. He allowed one run — on Luis Garcia’s homer in the first — three hits and a walk, striking out five. After the Nationals put four runners on base in the opening three innings, Scherzer settled in to retire his final seven batters.
After recording what turned out to be his final out, Scherzer appeared to ask pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to follow him down the steps from the Mets’ dugout — out of view of cameras. “There’s nothing that happened. I didn’t throw a weird pitch. I didn’t have anything go. Nothing tightened up,” Scherzer said. “I just had general fatigue overall on my left side. That’s where you can run into an injury, when you’re pitching through fatigue. That was the reason to come out.”
There was an unexpected development with the other starting pitcher, too. Nationals lefthander Patrick Corbin was highly effective, holding the Mets to one run (on Eduardo Escobar’s homer) and three hits in seven innings. That lowered his ERA to 6.28.
In his four previous starts against this Mets this year, Corbin was rocked for 13 runs and 27 hits in 17 2⁄3 innings.
“That was as good as I’ve seen him,” Showalter said. “He had command and a little extra crispness to his stuff tonight.”