WASHINGTON — Nationals hurler Max Scherzer turned up the heat for his scoreless sixth inning against the American League Tuesday night.
After inducing a groundout from Eric Hosmer (Scherzer was the only pitcher Hosmer didn’t get a hit against), and a flyout from Carlos Beltran, Scherzer reached back for something special on his fifth pitch to Matt Wieters. According to Statcast, Scherzer’s 2-2 fastball beamed in at 99.2 mph and blew by the bat of Wieters.
Scherzer let out a loud, ferocious grunt with the pitch. I mean it was LOUD.
A 99-mph fastball warrants it.
Actually, Nats reliever Shawn Kelley is a grunter, too, something Scherzer frequently gives him grief over. To understand the backstory, let’s turn to a radio segment which took place at the turn of July when Kelley, who was in studio with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, presided over a phone interview with his teammate, Scherzer.
“We talked about this and it happened in Cincinnati, so I don’t know if we were playing them, but he’ll grunt when he throws a fastball,” Scherzer said. “But I don’t like it when he grunts and he only throws it 92. I say if he grunts, he at least has to throw it 95.
“So if you see a 95 on the board, and you see him grunt, just know that that’s okay.”
Kelley doesn’t often touch 95 on the radar gun — according to PITCHf/x, his fastball sits comfortably at 92 — so letting out an airy bellow when he does is celebratory, of sorts.
“Thanks, Max,” Kelley said. “And, actually, I did grunt in Cincinnati. I threw it 95, struck a guy out and I looked right at you.”
[unintelligible response muffled by laughter]
“And I came right through the dugout and walked right up to you and said, ‘There you go, Max,'” Kelley said. “I was sore for three days after, but it was a great moment for me.”
Well, actually, Kelley’s memory is a hair off about this one game of 162. He struck out three batters in the two innings he pitched over two games in Cincinnati. Those batters and Kelley’s velocity on the strikeout pitch: Billy Hamilton (85, slider), Ivan De Jesus (85, slider), Eugenio Suarez (92, fastball).
The pitch to which Kelley was probably referring happened to be his fastest of the series, not a strikeout, but a 95-mph heater nonetheless, to get Kyle Waldrop to ground out to end the eighth inning of a 10-9 Washington victory on Sunday, June 5.
“Now, Max, you’re pumping 97 and you’re touching higher than that,” Paulsen said. “But are you grunting out on the mound? Is there audible noises?”
“No, it’s just kind of one of my rules,” Scherzer said. “If you grunt, you have to throw it 95. So if you grunt and only throw it 91, that doesn’t count. Like, you know, you’re kind of a tool if you’re doing that. Especially with Shawn, like, ‘Hey, make sure if you grunt, just make sure it’s 95.’
“Let me tell you something. I’ll bet Max has grunted on a changeup before,” Kelley jabbed.
“Yeah, maybe way, way in the wayback machine I might have done that,” Scherzer defended his honor. “But nothing in the big leagues.”