Max Scherzer faced another challenging outing against the Houston Astros, this time in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.
The Texas Rangers’ right-hander, who recently returned from an over one-month absence due to a right shoulder strain, is determined to step up again if necessary.
Scherzer’s performance was limited to four innings on Wednesday night, and he left the game with the Rangers trailing by five runs, resulting in an 8-5 loss to the Astros. This loss narrowed the Rangers’ series lead to 2-1.
“I can’t say for sure how I’ll be utilized going forward,” Scherzer commented. “But I can confidently say that my arm is in good shape. That’s the top priority.”
In the second inning, the three-time Cy Young Award winner faced adversity as he allowed three runs, including one on a wild pitch and two more from Martín Maldonado’s two-run single. Things didn’t get easier when Jose Altuve hit a leadoff homer in the third. The Astros extended their lead to 5-0 in the fourth, marked by Mauricio Dubón’s RBI single, but Scherzer found his form, striking out Jeremy Peña and Maldonado with a runner on base.
“I still believe I had more to give,” Scherzer expressed, despite throwing 63 pitches. “Given the score and how the game was unfolding, I understand why they substituted me. I fully agree with the decision.”
Six weeks earlier, Scherzer was dealing with forearm tightness when he had a rough outing against the Astros, allowing seven runs, all from three home runs, over three innings in their 12-3 victory. He did bounce back with a 5 1/3 scoreless innings performance against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 12, just before landing on the injured list.
Scherzer faced another challenging postseason start, conceding five runs and five hits, along with a walk, a hit batter, and four strikeouts. This follows a tough outing in last year’s NL Wild Card Series with the New York Mets when he allowed seven runs and seven hits, including four home runs, in a 7-1 loss to the San Diego Padres. Scherzer joined the Texas Rangers in a deadline deal from the New York Mets this summer.
As Scherzer walked off the field in the fourth inning, he briefly spoke with manager Bruce Bochy on his way to the dugout, and Bochy gestured toward the bullpen. Rookie left-hander Cody Bradford took over for the eight-time All-Star in the fifth inning.
“I was simply trying to convey how I felt,” Scherzer explained. “I’m not questioning any decisions, but as the starting pitcher, it’s also my responsibility to express my condition. I still felt physically strong, and I believed I could continue getting outs. Ultimately, it’s their choice whether or not to use me.”
At 39 years old, Scherzer became the second pitcher in MLB history to start for five different teams in the postseason, having previously pitched for the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Mets. In 28 postseason appearances, Scherzer holds a record of 7-8.
The Rangers had other pitching options, including lefty Andrew Heaney and right-hander Dane Dunning, who had been considered as the third and fourth starters in this postseason, behind Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi. Nevertheless, the decision to include Scherzer on the ALCS roster led to his Game 3 start, as opposed to Heaney, who will be taking the mound in the next game on Thursday night.
During the Division Series opener, Heaney and Dunning combined for the first 5 2/3 innings, allowing just one run each in the Rangers’ 3-2 victory over Baltimore.
“We took all the necessary steps to prepare him for this game,” Bochy commented about Scherzer. “He was fully prepared, as you could see from his performance. He’s a crucial part of our team, and we have no regrets about that.”
Scherzer pointed out that physically, he was in better shape than in his previous outing against the Astros, which featured a duel between two three-time Cy Young winners. He emphasized that the Game 3 result was more about execution than his health.
“I believe you can pick out a few isolated pitches where execution might have been off,” Scherzer stated. “However, overall, considering the four-week break, I believe I placed the ball quite effectively. Nevertheless, this is the postseason, and there’s no room for excuses.”