New York Mets ace Max Scherzer was booed off the mound on Friday night at the end of what proved to be a disappointing start against the San Diego Padres in Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series. Scherzer's final line saw him surrender seven runs on seven hits (four of them home runs) across 4 2/3 innings. He exited with the Mets trailing by seven runs in an eventual 7-1 loss.
"Baseball can take you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows," Scherzer told reporters after the game. "This is one of the lowest of lows."
Scherzer, 38 years old, had never allowed as many as seven runs in any of his previous 26 playoff appearances entering Friday's start. Indeed, the most he'd ever given up was six runs, with that coming in a disastrous 2011 American League Championship Series start against the Texas Rangers as a member of the Detroit Tigers. Scherzer had also never yielded more than two home runs before in a postseason game.
Max Scherzer is the 2nd pitcher in MLB history to allow four home runs and seven runs in a playoff game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 8, 2022
Gene Thompson did it for the Reds against the Yankees in the 1939 World Series.
It's worth noting that Scherzer had missed time in September because of an oblique injury. His health had come into question in recent days, with The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal writing about how he continued to deal with the aftereffects of the injury.
"You're processing it not when you're pitching, but in between innings," Scherzer told Rosenthal. "You're taking the temperature of where you're at, paying attention to where the fatigue comes in. If I'm fatiguing at the same rate, if my arm's tired, my side's tired … good, we're pitching. If we're in the third inning and I'm still going and (the side alone) is gassed, then I know I'm in trouble."
Blame it on the oblique, an off night, or some combination thereof, but Scherzer's pitch characteristics were different on Friday night as compared to his seasonal norm. His velocity on his fastball was roughly the same, yet each of his pitches featured significantly less spin than usual, according to Statcast's data.
Of course, what matters more than the velocity or the spin is the results. Unfortunately for Scherzer and the Mets, his didn't get the job done on Friday night.