Max Scherzer ready to 'crank up the intensity' in next start

Max Scherzer says he felt good the day after his latest start, his second since returning from the Injured List with a strained upper back. As Scherzer and Nationals officials have said repeatedly, it's how his back responds the next day after a start that matters most.

"It's all about the next day and how I recover, and I felt really good yesterday," Scherzer told 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier during his regular homestand appearance, presented by F.H. Furr.

"I really feel like we're on the right track now," he said, "that I can get back in my routines of everything and really start trying to strengthen up everything even more, so I'm really encouraged about how I came out of that start."

Scherzer threw 89 pitches in his most recent outing, allowing two earned runs with one walk and eight strikeouts in Wednesday's 8-4 win over the Orioles. He's hoping to get closer to that 90-to-100 pitch count range and "crank up the intensity" in his next start.

"What I'm really hoping is that I'm able to go through my whole routine, and in this next start, really just crank up the intensity, really be able to start rearing back and really throwing the ball, and being able to step on all the breaking pitches whenever I need to," he said. "And then who knows what the pitch count would be. Hopefully it's in the 90-to-100 pitch count range, but that would be a really good step forward if I'm able to do that."

Scherzer has noticed an uptick in intensity from Nationals fans, too, as suspense builds with Washington careening toward the postseason. He hopes Nats fans continue to come out and raise the bar for themselves, something the players pick up on and feed off of during games.

"You always want that environment, but for us, it's about just putting our nose to the ground and going out there and competing against these guys," Scherzer said. "That's the first and foremost thing. That's who we're competing against, and wherever we can get it, obviously we feed off the crowd's atmosphere as well. Any time we get the crowd going nuts, we go nuts as well."

"Obviously everybody's going nuts for the Baby Shark – the Parra Shark – so that's been great," he noted of utility man Gerardo Parra's walk-up song, which has become a sensation at Nats Park, causing fans to rise to their feet and chomp along with the beat.

"But I also know our Nats fans can bring it, too," he said. "There's been moments definitely. I mean in the postseason, it's been insane pitching in front of that crowd. We're right on the cusp of the postseason, hopefully we kind of get that type of atmosphere, because I know when I pitch in front of that, you feed off it and you play better as a player."

For as much as the Nats have separated themselves in the NL Wild Card race – currently holding a 2.5-game lead over the Cubs for the top Wild Card spot, a 5-game lead over the Phillies, and a 6.5-game lead over the Brewers – they've barely been able to gain any ground on the first-place Braves in the division, who just keep winning, and at all the right times, leaving them with a mountain of a 5.5-game edge in the NL East.

Scherzer, though, doesn't waste any time with in-game scoreboard watching.

"When I was kind of a young player and getting into the league, and kind of scoreboard watching, I remember being there and Prince Fielder told me, he said, 'Just quit looking at that crap,'" Scherzer recalled. "He says, 'I guarantee you, if we win, we win.' It's pretty simple."

"I mean, everybody wants to look at what everybody else is – all the scores and what everybody else is doing," he said. "But, I don't know, it was pretty simple that, if we focused on winning, we'll win."

"It's one thing to pay attention to the standings and understand where you're at. I mean, that matters," he elaborated. "But when you're actually in the game and you're scoreboard watching, that's the difference between what you have to do on the field. There's so many distractions that happen within the game, and if you're gonna let the scoreboard distract you, that's just one more thing that you add to the list of things that can take your focus away from what you're trying to do.

"I'm not trying to discount the standings by any means. Everybody's aware of them. But the scoreboard watching during the game, that's great for the fans but not for the players."

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