If he did, if only for a split second, just because temptation had tugged his eyes to a screen, he would have seen the biggest comeback in the ninth inning or later in franchise history. He would have seen Trea Turner kickstart it with an RBI double that scratched at the New York Mets’ six-run lead. He would have seen Anthony Rendon knock in another run with a single. He would have seen Ryan Zimmerman drive in two more, sending his own double into the right-center field gap, celebrating on second with two clenched fists and an unchained scream. And he would have seen Kurt Suzuki, the 35-year-old catcher, his catcher, blasting a walk-off three-run homer into a night that was lost and then found for the Nationals, forgettable until it became something to remember for a very long time.
But Scherzer didn’t look. He didn’t even glance. He instead spent the last moments of the Nationals’ 11-10 win doing his part. He wasn’t watching when the rally began. So he couldn’t start in the middle of it, or ever, because superstition says change is what changes good luck. He missed a hell of an ending.
“I wasn’t watching and things were happening,” Scherzer said, looking almost proud of himself, letting the thrill of a win hide the absurdity of it all. “Don’t all of a sudden jump on the bandwagon if you weren’t watching before. Why start watching? So I just let that unfold.”
Three hours and 17 minutes before Suzuki’s homer, when the sunlight had yet to dwindle, Scherzer began his third start since he came off the injured list Aug. 22. He was lights out for five of his six innings. But he lapsed in the fourth, giving up four runs on five hits, and that put the Nationals in a three-run hole against Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
Their comeback began against deGrom in the sixth, when Suzuki scored Juan Soto with a single off the wall, yet that’s when the mistakes started, too. Matt Adams got a bad a read on Suzuki’s hit and couldn’t get past second, so Suzuki held up at first and a double play stayed intact. Gerardo Parra bounced into one three pitches later to end the threat. Left-handed reliever Roenis Elías then yielded a solo homer to Jeff McNeil to lead off the eighth, upping the deficit back to three runs, and Soto’s two-run homer in the bottom of the inning could only put a dent in it. Then it was extended again after Brandon Nimmo, another lefty, took Elías deep to start the ninth. Then it stretched even more when McNeil added a two-run single and Pete Alonso lifted a two-run homer off Daniel Hudson.
The top of the ninth should have been over before those last four runs scored. Adams bobbled a foul ball he could have caught. Turner fielded a grounder, had a tailor-made double play with a catcher running, but only threw to first because he thought there were already two outs. That allowed the Mets to build that six-run lead. Major league teams were 274-0 when leading by six or more runs in the ninth this season. No one bothered to tell the Nationals that.
“A win is a win is a win is a win,” Manager Dave Martinez said, and his answer was met by a cheer from fans who stuck around. They yelled throughout his postgame news conference. They banged on the glass separating the premium club from the interview room. Martinez pointed in their direction, more than once, while relaying how calm he was as the bottom of the ninth began.
Martinez stood by the dugout steps, as he always does, and started chatting with Asdrúbal Cabrera. The veteran was due up fourth if the Nationals could get a runner on base. The Mets took out Seth Lugo, their best reliever, after Turner’s miscue helped make it a non-save situation. Martinez was smiling, and he remembered Cabrera had asked him: “What’s wrong with you?” The manager recalled telling the 33-year-old there was no reason to be negative, not then, not even after the Nationals’ bullpen allowed six runs across the eighth and ninth. It was the approach he took when the team left New York with a 19-31 record in late May. He saw no point in changing it now.
Victor Robles led off with an infield single off Paul Sewald. Howie Kendrick flied out to deep right field. Turner walked to the plate and, after he smacked his double, Cabrera turned to Martinez and laughed. They had traction. They had another run when Rendon ripped his single to left, scoring Turner, and that’s when Mets Manager Mickey Callaway reached further into his bullpen. He brought in lefty Luis Avilán to face the left-handed Soto with one out. Soto rolled a seeing-eye single to right.
Now Martinez had a critical decision to make with Adams, a powerful lefty, about to face Avilán. He countered with Zimmerman and expected Callaway to plug Edwin Díaz into the game. Díaz entered with a 5.29 ERA in 51 innings. He had also allowed 12 home runs and blown five saves. Zimmerman took a simple approach against his high-90s fastball and power slider. The 34-year-old, fresh off the injured list, later admitted he hadn’t faced Díaz enough to look for any one pitch.
He took an awkward half swing as strike one whizzed by. Then he stayed on a high fastball and drove it the opposite way, igniting a watered-down crowd and bringing his teammates to the rim of the dugout. The tying runs were in scoring position. They just needed one more hit.
“We don’t get paid for overtime in the big leagues, and with a day game tomorrow,” Suzuki quipped after the game, “part of me was like: ‘See if you can end it.’ And part of me was: ‘Just hit it hard.’”
After working Díaz into a full count, Suzuki did both with one uppercut swing. He knew the ball was gone, right off the bat, and pointed to his teammates as they spilled onto the field. There was Martinez, who never wavered, who watched his players form a jagged circle around home plate. There were Elías and Hudson, off the hook until the morning, allowed to mob Suzuki like everyone else. There was Turner, who made a critical mistake that will only live on in his head, and who wrapped Suzuki in a bear hug once the celebration cooled off.
And somewhere inside the building was Scherzer, not knowing what caused the banging and screaming, but pretty sure the Nationals had done something right.