Max Scherzer hadn’t pitched in five weeks. It turns out Max Scherzer looked like a guy who hadn’t pitched in five weeks.
With the luxury of being up two games to none in a best of seven, Rangers manager Bruce Bochy could afford to give his prize possession at the trade deadline a start. Scherzer had made a miraculously speedy recovery and had just tossed sixty-eight pitches in a simulated game.
Simulated games, turns out, don’t simulate playoff games.
After getting through the first inning, Scherzer fell apart in the second. His simulated slider simulated a very hittable pitch. He had the Astros version of Babe Ruth, Yordan Alverez, down 0-2 then let him off the hook by hitting him with a pitch. He then loaded the bases, threw a wild pitch to score a run, and committed the cardinal sin of giving up a two-RBI single to the Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, who is so offensively challenged he can’t even hit a brick wall if he ran into it.
By the time Scherzer left the game, his Rangers were down 5-0 after four innings. It was a hole too big to dig out of, especially for a team that came from behind in the late innings only twice this year. In the end, the Rangers lost 8-5.
The good news was, the Rangers offense, once they got their first hit in the fourth inning, scored enough to win. And it battled. Also, they forced the Astros to use their A-bullpen another game, while the Rangers emptied their bullpen of pitchers who had yet to see playoff action: Cody Bradford, Martin Perez, Chris Stratton, Jon Gray (who also looked like a pitcher who hadn’t pitched in weeks), and Will Smith, who has seen playoff action, but briefly.
So, now the Astros have a win. But, as they say, momentum only goes as far as the next day’s pitcher.
Which means, it’s up to Andrew Heaney to get the Rangers that third victory.
The miracle of Max Scherzer will have to wait another day.