Max Scherzer heroically started Game 7 of the World Series for the Nationals against the Astros. 48 hours ago, he couldn’t lift his arm and needed his wife to help him get dressed, causing him to be scratched from his scheduled Game 5 start due to neck spasms. Cortisone shots are pretty good, it turns out.
As valiant as Scherzer’s effort was, though, he was clearly operating at a significantly lower level of effectiveness than usual, and manager Dave Martinez still let him slog through 103 pitches over five innings. We’re well aware that the Nationals’ actual bullpen has been less than stellar this year, but they have repurposed starters Aníbal Sánchez and Patrick Corbin at the ready in the absolute final game of the season. Zack Greinke is pitching so well for the Astros that it might not matter, but Martinez may have left Scherzer in one inning too long.
Scherzer worked around a two-out walk in the first inning. While he was missing his location at times, his velocity was there, which was a good sign. Yuli Gurriel greeted him rudely in the second inning, leading off with a line drive solo homer to left field to make it 1-0. Scherzer got into more trouble, allowing back-to-back singles, but the Astros helped him out by popping up a bunt and making two quick subsequent outs to strand both runners.
Scherzer put two more runners on base in the third inning on a leadoff single and a one-out walk, but escaped unscathed. The fourth inning saw two additional base runners reach, both with two outs, and again Scherzer danced out of trouble. It caught up with him in the fifth, with his velocity waning. Michael Brantley led off with a single and moved to second base as Gurriel grounded out for the second out of the inning. Scherzer walked Yordan Álvarez, then Carlos Correa followed up by sneaking a grounder down the third base line that was deflected into foul territory by Anthony Rendon, allowing a run to score to push the lead to 2-0. Scherzer struck out Robinson Chirinos to end the threat.
Corbin took over for Scherzer to start the bottom of the sixth. Scherzer’s final line: two runs on seven hits and four walks with three strikeouts across five innings. He was lucky to only allow the two runs as the Astros went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, stranding nine total runners. Martinez has managed his pitching staff well in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but with the way Greinke is pitching, the extra run Scherzer surrendered in the fifth inning could prove crucial.