Max Scherzer tests limits of newly implemented pitch clock
PORT ST. LUCIE — Max Scherzer doesn’t quite know all of the limits of the pitch clock, but he’s eager to push all of them until he figures them out.
Scherzer worked quickly and efficiently through the first two innings of his Grapefruit League start against the Washington Nationals on Friday at Clover Park. He ran into trouble in the third inning, but trouble was exactly what he was looking for.
“If you just throw three perfect innings, that’s really not good in spring training,” Scherzer said after departing the game. “You want to be in these situations, you want to have hits and runners on base and be pressing what you can and can’t do with runners on base.”
Scherzer allowed seven unearned runs and none earned on five hits over 2 2/3 innings. In the third inning, he was called for a balk and had a double play removed because of a pitch clock violation. Luis Guillorme also made two extremely uncharacteristic errors and all of this resulted in an eight-run inning.
“If there was ever a time for Guillorme to kick two balls, man, this was it,” Scherzer said.
The right-handed ace also told his shortstop the same thing in the dugout.
Ildemaro Vargas singled to lead off the third inning and give Scherzer five additional seconds to work with for the next hitter, Victor Robles. Scherzer wanted to quick pitch Robles after he called his only timeout, but was called for a balk when home plate umpire Jeremy Riggs determined he threw the ball before the hitter was ready. Vargas advanced on the balk.
Robles managed a weak ground ball but it took a hop on Guillorme at shortstop and the infielder was unable to make the play.
With runners on the corners and none out, Scherzer held the ball until the clock hit 0:00 before throwing his first pitch to Riley Adams. This wasn’t exactly intentional but it did serve a purpose. Knowing that a shot clock in basketball goes below 0:00, Scherzer wanted to find out if it was the same in baseball.
Adams managed a weak ground ball that was turned for a double play but the umpires called it back because as it turns out, the clock doesn’t go below 0:00 in baseball.
“That’s one thing I also want to make sure we clean up on the rules,” Scherzer said. “I want to make sure it’s not 0:00 the moment it hits 0:00 or is there a little time? I was able to get clarification on that, but that was my mistake, I just didn’t keep track of time in that split second.”
Robles swiped second and Scherzer worked the count to 1-2. He came set and held on for so long that Adams took his timeout. Scherzer stayed set to be able to fire the pitch to Nido immediately and got Adams to strike out on a foul tip.
A groundout scored Vargas and put Robles at third, allowing him to score on a single. Luis Garcia then sent one over the fence for a two-run home run and Guillorme booted the next ball. Another run would score before Scherzer exited the game. It was an eventful, but beneficial start for the chess master.
“You’ve got to press the limit on what you can’t and can’t do,” Scherzer said. “I pressed them today.”
Scherzer thought the balk was unnecessary and that umpire had signaled he could throw but felt the other two calls were valid. It’s part of the learning process of adapting to a pitch clock, a rule he was heavily in favor of and still continues to speak positively about.
The Mets lost 11-6 but for a game with 17 runs, 17 hits, several pitching changes and a few errors, the game was still finished in 2:23, showing that the pitch clock continues to serve its intended purpose of shortening games and creating more of an in-game flow.