WASHINGTON – Houston’s Gerrit Cole heads into his World Series rematch against the Washington Nationals and Max Scherzer in Game 5 on Sunday in an unfamiliar position.
It’s been quite a long time since Cole took the mound coming off a loss.
“The focus on the pitches just continues to just raise across the board,” Cole said before Washington took a 2-1 Series lead into Game 4 on Saturday night. “And so you have to deal with that. You have to respond to that.”
The righty, considered a leading contender for the AL Cy Young Award, had not taken an “L” since May until the World Series opener, when Scherzer and the Nationals beat him 5-4. Before that, Cole was 19-0 over his previous 25 starts.
This is a guy who led the majors in strikeouts and was second in wins during the regular season, going 20-5 with 326 Ks and a 2.50 ERA.
The way he described what happened in Game 1, when he allowed five runs in seven innings?
“I didn’t have my A-game,” Cole said then.
Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young honoree, navigated his way in and out of trouble that night in Houston, giving up two runs in five innings.
“After the first game, he already sat down and kind of mapped out his game plan for his next game,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “So as you know: Max, he’s all in. He’s got a plan.”
One key to getting through that outing, Scherzer said, was not giving in to the Astros’ batters, and staying away from the strike zone as much as possible.
The 35-year-old right-hander was asked Saturday whether he might need to throw over the plate more this time around.
“The game will dictate that. The scoreboard will dictate that. You’ve got to just get into the flow of the game, and understand where everything’s at, where you’re at in the lineup, who’s up, score of the game, inning, pitch count. You name it,” he responded.
“That all just goes into the same thing,” Scherzer said. “You just have to have your instincts out there and work with the catcher and just figure out what you want to do.”
He had lost four consecutive postseason decisions coming into this year, dating to 2013 with the Detroit Tigers.
And so far in 2019? The Nationals are 4-0 in his appearances, including three starts and one in relief. Scherzer has shown no ill effects from the upper back problem that put him on the injured list for about a month during the season.
Now, he noted, he’s fine.
“All those back issues, I have to really address in the offseason. … How I’m going to train and everything,” Scherzer said. “So I’ve been dreaming up different things I might be doing this December and January to really address that.”
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