Scherzer looks solid for second straight outing despite thumb issue – The Denver Post

The most ace-worthy performance the Mets have received this season came from a pitcher who is currently in Triple-A. Joey Lucchesi wrote the kind of masterpiece one would expect from Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander a month ago in San Francisco. Verlander himself has only pitched like this once, against the lowly Cincinnati Reds two rounds ago.

But Max Scherzer came close on Sunday in the Mets’ 5-4 win over the Cleveland Guardians at Citi Field. He pitched six scoreless innings and struck out five to earn a quality start, limiting the Guardians to just three hits and a walk. His last two starts have been more or less what was expected of him, although the three-time Cy Young Award winner has higher expectations for himself.

“You really don’t get anything out of it other than how you compete and how you win,” Scherzer said.

Six innings and a 4.01 ERA isn’t where the bar is set for an ace, but it’s not the same Scherzer of a few years ago. This Scherzer has been dealing with plenty of nagging injuries and is two years old of 40, learning to cruise at a waning speed and get out without his best stuff.

Sunday’s problem was a callus that opened up and split the skin on his thumb. It comes after a fight with neck spasms, there was the back pain last month that forced the Mets to put him off for a few days and last season there was the oblique problem.

It looks like Scherzer isn’t 100% this season yet. At this point in his career, he may never be as healthy as he would like.

“He fought the whole game, but every pitcher is fighting something,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Shaking your arm violently every day or every 5-6 days is not good for your body. You’re going to have things and some you can throw with, some you can’t.

The cut on his thumb affected his fastball speed, something he had worked hard to build up after his 10-game suspension in late April. But it forced him to slightly modify his grip on his curveball, moving his thumb up on the ball, and that pitch helped him out.

“The only thing that could really throw was a curveball, so I changed the grip on it,” he said. “Quite surprisingly, when (I gave a thumbs up) on the curve ball, I actually found good grip. It was one of two painless pitches I was able to throw today. So , curveball and change was painless for me today, thanks to this I was able to break some good curveballs and use them when I needed them.

Yet he only played six rounds. An overworked bullpen finally broke when the Mets’ top high-leveraged relievers Adam Ottavino and David Robertson allowed four runs in the eighth inning to give the Guardians a lead. The offense bailed out the bullpen late in the inning, but the starting staff’s inability to go deep has been the story all season.

Having thrown only 86 pitches, Scherzer would have liked to come back for the seventh inning but left the decision to Showalter. The manager felt it was best to replace him with southpaw Brooks Raley to counter southpaw Josh Naylor and slugger Josh Bell in the seventh.

Scherzer was seen in the tunnel with Showalter and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner in the tunnel looking angry after the sixth, but admitted the manager made the right call to go to the bullpen .

“I said to Buck, ‘It’s up to you. If you want me to continue, I’ll go. But I also understand if you want to fire me,” Scherzer said. “It was probably the right decision to fire me.”

The Mets have built a team around Scherzer and Verlander, but the two aging stars haven’t quite been the aces the team needs yet. This start against Cleveland may be a step towards such a throw. The Mets seem to have corrected their trajectory this week with two series against the Tampa Bay Rays and Guardians and this may be where the team is finally turning the corner.

But it’s also possible that what they’re getting from their two aces is performance similar to Scherzer’s on Sunday: a solid outing, but not dominant.

“You’re not always going to feel good,” Scherzer said. “You are going to feel really bad some days. I feel like I’ve been on a string of this and it’s part of the game. You just suck it and win.


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