Despite the disappointment, the Washington Nationals’ season has offered memorable moments that stand alone. Friday’s fiery response from Max Scherzer as Manager Matt Williams visited the mound is among the best of the season.
With the score tied at 2 against the Marlins in the seventh inning, Scherzer had a runner on second base and two outs and Dee Gordon at the plate. Scherzer’s pitch count sat at 102 and Gordon, who has hit well against him throughout his career, was 1 for 3 against him Friday. Williams emerged from the dugout but didn’t signal to the bullpen, where left-hander Felipe Rivero was warming.
He asked Scherzer one question: “You want him?” Williams said he “wanted to make sure I looked him in the eye.” Scherzer’s classic response was profane and fervent.
“I want it,” Scherzer shouted, according to replays of the incident, looking down and almost frothing at the mouth for the next batter. “I [expletive] want it. I [expletive] want it.”
Two pitches later, Scherzer got Gordon to ground out, and he pumped his fist as he walked off the mound. In the dugout, he pounded fists with coaches, Williams missing his chance because Scherzer had already turned away by then.
Asked about the spirited exchange on the mound after the game, Williams offered a more sanitized version: “I asked him, ‘You want him?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ Among other things. I don’t know if you can read lips.”
Television replays and slow motion allowed for lip reading. Scherzer grinned when asked about the mound visit after the game: “Some yelling, some four-letter words and ‘I want the ball’ is basically the gist of it.”
Scherzer’s passionate response on the mound was almost expected. He has squandered leads of late, but pitched better the past two games. He is an energetic player who wears his emotions openly on the field and ultra-competitive.
“I’ve done that for a while now,” he said. “I’ve done it to some pitching coaches and managers [like Jim] Leyland and [Brad] Ausmus in the past. You just have to have the belief in yourself when your situations arise. I always know I still have my best bolt left. I know I’m good to go and I’m ready to face anybody in the league in that situation. Not that I’m going to get everybody out but I have the attitude that I can succeed in those situations.”
Teammates were happy to see Scherzer show so much fire.
“I knew that was coming,” left fielder Jayson Werth said. “He’s a competitor. He wants the ball. He wants it in big spots. I knew if Matt made it all the way out there without signaling to the bullpen he was going to stay in the game. Just the type of guy he is.”
Added catcher Jose Lobaton: “I really love when this guy’s got the attitude like that right there. He’s got that extra energy, like: ‘No, I can go.’ I love that. I love that.”
Finally, first baseman Clint Robinson: “When you’ve got your ace on the mound and he’s pitching his butt off like that, I really like the move. I was happy Max wanted it. That’s the kind of thing you need from a guy like that.”