Washington Nationals righthander Max Scherzer, not content with another lights-out pitching performance, decided to add another weapon to his arsenal against the Atlanta Braves Monday night — his blazing speed.
Scherzer singled to right leading off the top of the seventh inning with the Nationals holding a 2-0 lead. Then, with Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman playing behind Scherzer and an 0-2 pitch to leadoff hitter Trea Turner, Scherzer took off and stole second.
“Finally — I’ve been yelling at (previous managers) Matt Williams and Dusty Baker, ‘Let me go’,” said Scherzer, who said it was his first steal since high school. “There’s obviously situations where I can; I think I’m fast enough.’ If J-Dub (former teammate Jayson Werth) can steal a base, so can I.”
Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who presented Scherzer with the second-base bag as a memento after the game, said this was going to happen.
“We’ve talked about for a week now, and he’s gung-ho,” said Martinez. “He loves to play the game. We talked and I said, ‘If a guy plays behind you and you think you’ve got a chance.’ But I said please don’t get hurt sliding. He said, ‘I’ve got the best pop-up slide in baseball’. And he showed it.”
Even though his teammates at the top of the order couldn’t bring him home for another run, Scherzer’s arm made it a moot point. The two-time defending NL Cy Young winner tossed a two-hitter for his fifth career shutout, and his first since his no-hitter in the final game of the 2015 season.
He struck out 10 and walked none, not allowing a Braves hitter to get past first base while throwing just 102 pitches in his ninth career complete game.
And Scherzer’s stellar performance came at a good time for the Nationals, who got back to .500 after losing five in a row.