Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer was on top of the world for a brief moment during Tuesday’s game against the Miami Marlins, but less than 30 minutes later, he was back on the bench.
Scherzer came to bat in the top of the second inning to face Miami starter Chris O’Grady, who had already given up an RBI double to Anthony Rendon earlier in the frame. With two men on base, Scherzer showed bunt but decided to take a mighty swing instead, making contact and hitting a towering home run — the first of his career — to the left field bleachers to score three runs.
Scherzer’s teammates were elated, but his night soon came to an abrupt end. The right-handed ace returned to the mound in the bottom of the frame but never threw an official pitch, ruling himself out of the game after just one warm-up toss.
Check out both surprising scenes below:
The Nationals broke from their usual policy of not providing injury updates during games, announcing that Scherzer suffered a neck spasm after he “slept on it funny.” He is expected to make his next scheduled start on Monday.
At first, there was speculation that Scherzer’s injury stemmed from his home run swing in the top of the second inning, but Scherzer put those suggestions to rest after the game, stating that his neck ailment was actually what allowed him to hit the blast.
“I couldn’t pull my head out, I had to stay locked in,” he said. “That actually gave me a better swing. That’s the reason why I hit a home run.”
But while the spasms boosted Scherzer’s power at the plate, they hindered his ability to pitch. The two-time Cy Young Award winner said the issue was caused by an unfamiliar pillow.
“I’ve had this pop up before. Use different pillows sometimes, it can just put a crick in your neck. And that’s what happened,” Scherzer said. “You do anything you can before a game to try to loosen it up. Went out there and warmed up OK, at least to start up the game…When I went out in the second I could tell it had tightened up even more. When I felt that, I knew it was time to pull the chute.”
Scherzer entered the game hitting .186/.255/.186 for the season, but the home run raised his slash line to .205/.271/.273, a modest improvement. He continues to lead the league in multiple pitching categories, including strikeouts and innings pitched.
The Nationals blew their lead in the fifth inning and lost to the Marlins 7-6. They will continue their series in Miami on Wednesday.
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