Max Scherzer threw a season-high 112 pitches last Sunday in his 19th start of the season.
On Saturday, starting on an extra day of rest, Scherzer threw a season-high 67 pitches before leaving the Mets game feeling “tired on the left side” after just five innings.
Scherzer, 38, missed seven weeks earlier this season with a strained left oblique – after trying to pass after feeling tightness in his left side during a start – but he said that problem was different and that he expects to make his next start next weekend.
“I just had general fatigue on the left side,” Scherzer said after the Mets lost to the Nationals 7-1 at Citi Field. “There was nothing specific, I don’t have any strains, it’s just that the left side was getting tired much faster than usual. So it was a precautionary measure, given the history of the oblique.
“Was there a scenario where I could go out there and throw the sixth and be OK? Yeah, that could have happened. But if I went out in sixth grade and got hurt, there’s no way I could come out here and look the guys in the face and say I made the right decision. Prevention is better than cure in this scenario.
The fact that there are only 28 games left in the regular season also played a role in Scherzer’s decision to err on the side of caution.
“You just couldn’t take any risks, especially where the schedule is,” Scherzer said. “There is no more time to revive. So I think that played an equally important role in the release after five years.
Scherzer, who gave up a solo home run in the first inning but retired the last seven batters he faced, began to feel the fatigue in the fourth inning. When it didn’t go away in the fifth inning, “that’s when the math changed,” he said.
The right-handed veteran said he doesn’t think he should have tests on his left side.
“You never know, they might just want to take a shot,” Scherzer said. “But nothing happened. I didn’t throw any weird throws, I had nothing to do, nothing tight. I just had general fatigue on my left side. This is where you can hurt yourself when going through fatigue. So that was the reason to get out.
In 12 starts since returning from the stretched slant on July 5, Scherzer has a 2.22 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 12 walks in 78 innings.
The Mets were close to returning to their full rotation on Sunday, when Carlos Carrasco was expected to be taken off the injured list after dealing with a strained oblique. But the Mets believe Scherzer’s early exit on Saturday won’t necessarily put a damper on that plan.
“Let it take a few days and I should feel good soon,” said Scherzer, who will have an extra day off before his next turn in the rotation because the Mets have Thursday off.
Manager Buck Showalter clarified that Scherzer did not ask to be released from the game, but the team made the decision after getting his feedback.
“Max is very good at understanding the big picture,” Showalter said. “He’s as good as it gets. That’s why he did the things he did, as far as self-knowledge is concerned. … He was very candid about how he felt and we reacted to what a very good pitcher who knows himself said.