After Max Scherzer blew one more fastball past a Miami Marlins hitter Sunday, he hopped off the mound. He hugged Yan Gomes, who caught his nine-strikeout complete game. He high-fived all his teammates.
Then he trotted down the dugout steps and into the clubhouse, took a shower and headed to the hospital.
Scherzer powered the Washington Nationals to a 3-1 win, securing his team their first series sweep of the season. The Nationals improved to .500 and hold a place atop the National League East. But there was something more important to Scherzer than his one-run, no-walk performance.
His wife, Erica, was set to give birth to the couple’s third child on Sunday night.
“That’s why we tried to make it a quick game,” Gomes joked.
Add another chapter to the legend that is Scherzer — the 36-year-old right-hander who has pitched through a broken nose and black eye and now threw a complete game on the day his wife was scheduled to give birth.
“Typical of him to do something cool on an interesting day for him,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who provided the three-run home run to put the Nationals ahead for good in the third. “Any time someone can bring a kid into the world is pretty cool, so for him to go complete game and pitch the way he did, then go over and have a baby with his wife, pretty cool day for him. We’re happy for him, and he never ceases to amaze, I guess, is the best way to put it.”
Manager Dave Martinez never considered pulling the ball from Scherzer’s hand Sunday — it might have been dangerous to try, actually. Scherzer allowed five hits over his 106 pitches, with Isan Diaz putting the Marlins on the board with a solo shot to lead off the ninth.
Scherzer rebounded, though, setting down two of the final three Miami batters on strikes. He pitched the minimum through four innings — with a jam-shot single to right from Corey Dickerson handing Miami its lone base runner until Scherzer hit Dickerson with a cutter in the fifth. The right-hander averaged 10 pitches per inning through six frames.
Last time out on Tuesday, Scherzer ran into Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing seven runs on eight hits in five innings — his shortest outing of the year. Guerrero hit a grand slam and a solo shot off Scherzer. And postgame, Scherzer bemoaned his inconsistent command, missing at times glove-side when he meant to pepper his catcher’s arm-side instead. But he showed none of those issues Sunday.
“He just comes out and refocuses himself, turns the page,” Gomes said. “I doubt, if you ever ask him, he’ll tell you he was thinking about the Blue Jays outing.”
Before his blip last week, Scherzer had been in dominant form, not allowing a run for 19 straight innings. Scherzer got back to his best with a steady dose of four-seam fastballs and sliders, forcing 28 called strikes and whiffs combined between his two staple pitches.
Scherzer threw a first-pitch strike to 23 of the 31 batters he faced, allowing him to mix in changeups, cutters and curveballs.
“He’s pumping first-pitch strikes, getting ahead of hitters, a lot of 0-2 counts,” Martinez said. “He had a great day, and he’s been pitching well. He’s going to go have a baby right now, tonight, so I wish him and his wife all the best.”
Zimmerman, meanwhile, bailed Washington out after a Nationals miscue on the basepaths. With one out and Trea Turner at bat, Victor Robles and Josh Harrison attempted a double steal. But Robles took off from second before Marlins left-hander Trevor Rogers committed to the plate, and Rogers stepped off to throw Robles out at third.
Robles has been caught stealing three times this season and was thrown out last month when trying to stretch a double into a triple. But Zimmerman launched an elevated four-seam fastball an estimated 430 feet to straightaway center field, driving in two runners with him, giving Scherzer a lead he wouldn’t surrender on a day he won’t forget.
“Having a baby tonight, might as well pitch like that,” Gomes said. “Or pitch like a man, in the words of Max.”