By the time Max Scherzer hopped out of the dugout and raised an arm to the 52,000-plus fans at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night, those gathered had gained an understanding of what the right-hander brings to a ballclub.
“Vintage Scherzer,” said Dusty Baker, Scherzer’s former manager with the Nationals who now leads the Astros.
“He delivered,” said Dave Roberts, Scherzer’s new Los Angeles manager after a trade sent him west from Washington.
“That was just a great thing to witness,” said Mookie Betts, one of Scherzer’s new teammates.
Scherzer joined Nationals shortstop Trea Turner in a trade-deadline deal with the Dodgers in exchange for four prospects. He’ll be a two-month rental in Los Angeles, but those two months could include another World Series run. And Scherzer’s first impression to the Dodgers faithful left them roaring for more.
So, at starter Clayton Kershaw’s prodding, Scherzer waved hello to the fans in blue — and in a sense, waved goodbye to those fans in red, the ones who cheered him that way for six-and-a-half seasons.
“At that point, the crowd was going nuts,” Scherzer said. “I wanted to go out there and tip my hat and appreciate what they did. They brought an unbelievable energy tonight.”
Scherzer’s outing, as Baker put it, was vintage. He struck out the first batter he faced — one of three times Jose Altuve was sent packing — but he gave up a homer to Michael Brantley in the first. Scherzer settled, though, pitching seven innings and allowing five hits, two runs and one walk. He struck out 10 batters during a pivotal interleague matchup that Los Angeles won, 7-5.
“With everything on the line, the way the crowd was — that was a high-adrenaline start, coming here,” Scherzer said. “Try not to do too much. Just pitch my game, go out there and do what I can do, and just try to navigate the lineup. The offense tonight went off.”
Back east, at Nationals Park, a thinned-out ballclub lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. Victor Robles, Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia combined to hit four homers, a promising sign of what could return to the District in the future.
But in Los Angeles, where Scherzer will start for at least the immediate future, the Dodgers are planning for this October, with Scherzer added to an already star-studded roster. And his first start showed what he can do, giving the Dodger Stadium crowd something to erupt over.