(Busch Stadium) Growing up in St. Louis, Max Scherzer would come to Busch Stadium to cheer on the home team. Later today, he will take the mound and do everything in his power to prevent them from winning.
“It’s been so long now, for me coming here–I want to beat the Cardinals,” laughed Scherzer. “If I was playing against Ozzie Smith or somebody like that, yeah, I’d be a little bit more star struck.”
“Definitely, I was a fan of his when he was here–how he went out and pitched and competed,” said Scherzer. “Especially with the St. Louis organization and the history that’s part of this organization, for him to be recognized as one of the greats in Cardinals history, that’s an amazing achievement.”
Scherzer turned in a Carpenter-esque performance his last outing against the Cardinals, striking out 10 batters and allowing only 2 ER in 6IP last September as Washington won 4-3 at Busch.
“When you actually get on the mound, it’s full go,” said Scherzer. “Everything goes white noise and you just go out there and compete–that’s when I’m at my best.”
But more than just triple-digit fastballs, Scherzer has continued to work on elevating his pitching. And the tone was set not by a fellow pitcher, but former teammate Miguel Cabrera.
“I watched him win the Triple Crown, that was one of the most amazing seasons I’ve ever seen,” began Scherzer. “The thing that gets lost in all this is his next year in 2013, he was having a better year before he got hurt. He was hitting 30 points higher and was going to hit another 15 or 20 home runs and was on pace for another 30 or 40 RBIs before he got hurt. He had the Triple Crown season that everybody raved about and was better the next year, so it doesn’t matter how good you are, you can always get better. I just remember sitting there and having that resonate with me, no matter how good you are, you can always get better.
“You always have to find stuff within your game to be working on. For me, it’s always been refinement of my off-speed pitches and trying to find ways to get that extra strikeout. Find a way to get that extra jam shot, what can I do differently with the ball to be more consistent so I can give the hitter a different look. You always have to be critiquing yourself at all times to find out how you can get better. If it’s just one little thing every single day, you’re going to be a better ballplayer.”
Scherzer has averaged 9.77 strikeouts per nine innings–which is the best amongst active pitchers with at least 1400 innings pitched. That often has led to higher pitch counts, which in turn contributed to a lack of complete games for the right-hander. But last season, he finished four of his 33 starts–including a pair of no-hitters.
“You can be efficient with your strikeouts,” he pointed out. “You can have an eight-pitch at-bat end in a strikeout or you can have a three-pitch strikeout. You can have a three pitch at-bat that’s a ground ball or you can have an eight-pitch at-bat that’s a ground ball as well. The efficiency just comes in how well you attack and how well you do it with your pitches.”
In his no-hitter in June against Pittsburgh, Scherzer struck out 10 batters and needed just 106 pitches to do so. In his second n0-hitter, he used 109 pitches to strike out 17 New York Mets hitters.
“Your results are your results,” Scherzer continued. “I can’t sit here and make them hit the ball on the ground. I just can’t. I can do things to maybe influence it, but I just can’t. There’s things I can do. I can’t make them swing and miss the pitch, I can only put in a spot where I think I know they can’t. For me, it’s about going out there and playing the probabilities and playing the percentages of what I think is going to make me the most successful pitcher.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry, Tommy Gilligan, Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports