ATLANTA — Max Scherzer is expected to throw the Los Angeles Dodgers’ first pitch in the NL Championship Series only two days after delivering the final pitch in their NL Division Series clincher.
Unusual? Yes. And yet no one is surprised.
“That is Scherzer being Scherzer,” teammate Cody Bellinger said.
Scherzer is expected to face Braves lefthander Max Fried in Game 1 on Saturday night in an NLCS rematch. The Dodgers beat the Braves in seven games in last year’s NLCS before winning the World Series.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he plans to start Scherzer even after the NL Cy Young Award contender earned his first career save in a 2-1 victory over San Francisco on Thursday night in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Following the game, Roberts said he understood “there might be a cost” in using Scherzer in the closing role as the Dodgers faced the quick turnaround. Whatever that cost, the plan is for Scherzer to start the opener.
“That won’t surprise me,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Friday before Atlanta’s workout at Truist Park.
Snitker said Scherzer's 13-pitch ninth inning was like an off-day session in the bullpen.
“That’s kind of like a side for him right there,” Snitker said. “The guy is just a different animal. I mean, he’s a Hall of Famer and those guys, man they’re cut from a different cloth than normal guys, so it won’t surprise me at all if he shows up and is on the mound.”
Scherzer, who recorded two strikeouts Thursday, was 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA for Washington and Los Angeles this season, including 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts for the Dodgers. He has pitched 12⅓ innings over three appearances in the playoffs, allowing two runs and six hits with 16 strikeouts.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said he was wondering who would pitch the ninth inning for Los Angeles on Thursday night as he watched the game on TV.
“And then they showed Max running up and I said, ‘That’s the guy,’ ” Freeman said. “I don’t think anybody else would want anybody else other than Max in that game. He’s a bulldog, facing him for years.”
Freeman said he never doubted Scherzer would want the ball in the NLCS opener even after the relief appearance.
“He’s going to come back, I bet, tomorrow, and pitch against us and he’s going to be Max Scherzer,” Freeman said.
Roberts planned to confirm his rotation plans with Scherzer after the team's arrival in Atlanta and workout Friday night to “just kind of see where he’s at. But as of now that’s kind of where we’re at.”
Fried moves up as Atlanta’s Game 1 starter after Charlie Morton pitched on short rest in the Braves’ 5-4 clinching win over Milwaukee in the NL Division Series on Tuesday night.
Fried joins Morton and Ian Anderson to give Snitker a reliable three-man rotation. Snitker plans to have a bullpen game that could include Huascar Ynoa and Drew Smyly. Led by Morton, Fried, and Anderson, the Braves recorded two shutouts against Milwaukee and limited the Brewers to six runs in four games.
“I feel really good about all three of the guys we’re going to be featuring,” Snitker said. “I’d say it’s a significant difference than a year ago when we started this tournament.”
The Braves are preparing to be without outfielder Jorge Soler in the series as they await his clearance following his positive COVID-19 test.
Dansby Swanson replaced Soler as the leadoff hitter Tuesday against the Brewers. Snitker said Friday he was still considering Swanson and other options for his leadoff hitter Saturday night.
Controversial check swing ends classic Dodgers-Giants series
Wilmer Flores swung — or he didn’t — and that was it on Thursday night. Last call for the San Francisco Giants.
A surprising and spectacular ride came to a startling halt, a 109-win season finished with a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the NL Division Series on a heavily disputed check swing at a Scherzer slider.
“It looked like he didn’t go. I mean, that was my take on it,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “I just think it’s just a disappointing way to end.”
He added: “It’s heightened on the last play of the game ... in this case a check-swing.”
“That’s going to be the thing that is talked about quite a bit and I understand why,” he said. “I just don’t know how much sense it makes to, for us, on our side, to pick that apart. I don’t know how much, how helpful it’s going to be.”
Kapler’s ballclub, which set a franchise record with 107 wins in the regular season and had stayed a step ahead of the Dodgers the whole year, couldn’t quite finish off the defending World Series champs in a winner-take-all game.
With a runner on first and two outs, Flores appeared on TV replays to hold up on a low-and-away, 0-2 slider that missed the strike zone. Plate umpire Doug Eddings checked with first base ump Gabe Morales, who ruled Flores swung.
Check-swings are judgment calls and not reviewable under Major League Baseball replay rules.
“I mean, the immediate emotion is frustration, right?” Kapler said.
“Super tough. Yeah, I mean, obviously you don’t want a game to end that way. I know these guys work really hard to make the right call, so it’s super challenging on our end. Obviously it’s going to be frustrating to have a game end like that. But a pretty high-quality hitter at the plate that can climb back into that count, it’s no guarantee of success at the end of the at-bat. It’s just a tough way to end it.”
Morales told a pool reporter that “check swings are one of the hardest calls we have. I don’t have the benefit of multiple camera angles when I’m watching it live. When it happened live I thought he went, so that’s why I called it a swing.”
Morales said he had seen a replay of the last pitch. Asked whether he still thought it was a swing, crew chief Ted Barrett answered.
“Yeah, no, we, yeah, yeah, he doesn’t want to say,” Barrett said.
Many in the crowd of 42,275 who had spent the evening standing and waving orange towels erupted in anger after Morales’ call. Some threw cans of beer on the field as the Dodgers emerged from their dugout, and several pieces of trash were tossed onto the outfield grass.
It was an abrupt end to a year that few people saw coming out of spring training, especially from a team that hadn’t finished over .500 since 2016.
With the World Series champion Dodgers and Padres heavily favored, the upstart Giants not only saw their championship-experienced veterans shine but repeatedly rode their bevy of fresh new faces — including young ace Logan Webb — to the best record in baseball.
But after leading the National League with 241 home runs, that power was mostly missing Thursday. Darin Ruf’s solo shot off Julio Urías was the lone run the Giants scored. In late July, Ruf had his own experience with a check-swing against Los Angeles. The umpires ruled he held up — it appeared he didn’t come close — on a full-count pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium, resulting in a tying walk in a game the Giants eventually won.
This time, the call went against his club.
“I mean, at the time I didn’t know, but obviously we’ve been able to see the replay and it didn’t look like he went,” Ruf said. “But a check-swing earlier in the year helped us out, too. So it’s kind of funny how it comes down to those two events. But, yeah, just, yeah.”
Cubs name Carter Hawkins GM
The Cubs hired Carter Hawkins as their general manager, dipping into Cleveland’s front office in an effort to bolster their own player development system.
The 37-year-old Hawkins spent 14 seasons with Cleveland, including the last five as an assistant general manager. He also supervised the team’s player development department at a time when it has flourished, turning its pitching prospects into successful major leaguers, among them reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber.
The Cubs plan to formally introduce Hawkins as the franchise’s 16th general manager at a news conference on Monday. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer had been looking for a GM since he was promoted from the job almost a year ago, replacing Theo Epstein, but put off the search after it was hampered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Hoyer said in a release that Hawkins “has earned a fantastic reputation as a leader through hard work, open-mindedness, humility, and intelligence. . . . It quickly became clear that we share the same passion for team building.”