It’s the sixth inning at Citi Field Wednesday evening and Max Scherzer is cruising along. Two outs, he summons the trainer and leaves his start against the Cardinals. There was immediate concern and hesitation before panic could set in with the Mets already without starters Jacob deGom and Tylor Megill due to injury.
This is Max Scherzer and the Mets can’t afford to be without him for an extended period of time.
“But this is not a sky is falling team,” manager Buck Showalter said about the left side discomfort that forced Scherzer to remove himself. “He’s been a great self evaluator. He knows when he’s at a point, when if he pushes more, it’s going to turn into something serious.”
And the Mets hope a Thursday MRI will not reveal this to be serious. Showalter knows the history of his star right hander along with his previous injuries. Last year, Scherzer missed his start with the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series due to a tired arm. In the final days of spring training, there was right hamstring tightness that postponed his start to the season.
The difference from last season when injuries created problems because of a lack of depth, this is a Mets team that can overcome his absence and the prevailing attitude is Scherzer could miss one or two starts.
Again, though, this all depends on results of an MRI and after the Mets 11-4 win over the Cardinals there was a sense of concern in the home clubhouse. Scherzer said this wasn’t a major strain and went with his instincts to remove himself from the game.
‘I felt like it just kind of got worse,” he said. “Hopefully I got out of there quick enough to prevent a major, major injury here. I know obliques, intercostals, those things can be nasty. Hopefully, I avoided a serious injury.”
But this has become a common thing with the Mets the past few years with injuries to key components of their pitching rotation, bullpen, and lineup. Last year, injures were contagious and down the stretch the Mets made that late season run for a second NL wild card that came up short.
With deGrom not expected back anytime soon and Megill out with right biceps inflammation, the Mets can only hope that Scherzer for the most, misses one start and that all depends again on that MRI result.
The clubhouse was quiet and afterwards you would expect there to be concern. The Mets are aware how significant Max Scherzer is to their success as much as Pete Alonso.
Alonso lined a three-run homer in the eighth, drove in four and tied Jose Ramirez with 33 RBI for the major league lead.
“I know he [Scherzer] loves to compete,” said Pete Alonso. “But also at the same time, he’s really smart. If he were to keep pushing and keep going, something a lot worse could have happened.”
Scherzer (5-1) is tied for the most wins in the majors. This was his eighth start on that high profile three-year $130 million contract. His fastball and slider have continued to be effective. That slider in the dirt to Albert Pujols was his last pitch of the evening.
“We don’t know exactly what the injury is,” Scherzer said. “But I’ve never had a left side injury before. So when I felt it, I knew. There’s no way you can throw another pitch, so just get out of here.”
It’s common practice with pitchers as they will do anything to convince a manager to stay on the mound, though Scherzer, a crafty veteran, knew better. It was time to go and not risk further damage that could have severe implications with a Mets season almost 40 games into the season.
In reality, Max Scherzer needs to remain healthy if the Mets want this to be a special season as they await the return of Jacob deGrom.
Showalter said, “Nobody cares about your problems. Our fans do, but the people we’re competing against don’t care. And we like the people that we’re surrounded ourselves with, Nobody has the track record of Max.”
Indeed nobody has that track record. And if the Mets don’t see Scherzer on the mound for one or two of his next starts they can overcome this strain of pain.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso