Max Scherzer pitched six scoreless innings against the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field as the Mets went on to win 5-4 to improve to 4-1 on their current homestand.
A deeper look at Scherzer’s outing shows that he relied heavily on his breaking pitches, as he ended up throwing just 27 four-seam fastballs while throwing 30 combined curveballs and changeups.
As it turned out, he had a pretty reason for that.
“I was dealing with my thumb callus split open, so I was on a bad thumb today,” Scherzer said after the game. “So, the only thing I could really do, the curveball, I shifted the grip on it, and surprising enough when you bring your thumb up on your curveball, it actually ended up being one of the only pain-free pitches I could go to today. Curveball and changeup were pain-free for me today. Because of that, I was able to snap off some good curveballs and I used it when I needed it.”
Scherzer explained that the thumb callus originally split during his last start against the Washington Nationals, a start that he said he was able to “navigate” through.
“You’ve got to suck it up and go through it,” Scherzer said. “You’d rather pitch in pain and win than not pitch at all.
“I’ll be good by next start, but you’re going to have one start where it’s miserable.”
Scherzer likened pitching on Sunday to a basketball player playing on a sprained ankle. And while he clearly dealt with the painful injury all afternoon long, he was able to hold a talented Guardians offense to just three hits while striking out five to go along with just one walk.
The three-time Cy Young winner has already been down with a few different health issues this season. From dealing with discomfort “just south” of his scapula area to neck spasms that pushed back his previous start, it’s been a bit of a strange year for the 38-year-old.
But when the Mets needed him on Sunday, Scherzer delivered.
“Just found a way,” said the veteran. “Find a way to win, that’s all that matters. Go out there and pitch and you really don’t take anything from this other than how you compete and how you win. I went out there, gave the team six innings, and for me, I felt like I went out there and did my job giving them six innings.
He added: “This is the big leagues. I wish things were easy, but it’s usually the opposite. It’s usually really hard. This is just part of being a big-leaguer. You’re not always going to feel good. You’re actually going to feel pretty crappy some days. I feel like I’ve been on a string of this and it’s just part of the game. I’m not here to complain about it. Just suck it up, pitch, and win.”
“He’s obviously working through some things,” said Buck Showalter. “He had a little cut (on his thumb), but he worked through it. He was the difference in the game.”