The Los Angeles Dodgers give the ball to Max Scherzer for Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, a team he has a lot of history against.
Scherzer has thrown 157.2 innings against Atlanta in his career, but only 24 of those came before the debut of Freddie Freeman.
Freeman and Scherzer have faced each other 55 times, with the left-handed hitting first baseman winning the battle 18 times (11 hits, seven walks) while batting .234/.327/.511/.838 with three home runs and four doubles.
It’s about what you’d expect from two of the game’s best players. Freeman doesn’t hit Scherzer often, but when he does, he fares well. His bat has always provided a bit of a challenge for Scherzer, who enjoys facing the Braves’ star.
“They were always kind of tough. Even when they had some losing seasons, they were really good offensively. They just didn’t have the pitching,” Sherzer said of the Braves’ recent rise.
“You’d come into this place, and the number of times that they came back, even when they were losing, they would find ways. You could be beating them 5-0 because they didn’t have the pitching, but then they all of a sudden could make it 5-5.
“And you might win the game, but the offense has always been one of their key focal points throughout their entire time. That first and foremost starts with Freddie Freeman, hands down, he’s the best hitter I’ve had to face.
“And I love facing him because that’s who you measure yourself against when you have to face the best. So I can’t sit there and say when they were going to get good, it was when they got the pitching.”
The 32-year-old first baseman is a career .295/.384/.509 hitter with a 138 wRC+ and 271 home runs. Freeman established himself as one of baseball’s best players in 2011 and he has been one of the most consistent players since then.
“Because he has the ability to hit every pitch. Doesn’t matter what pitch you throw, if you over-expose any one of your pitches, I mean, he can hit it out of the ballpark at will,” Scherzer said about what makes Freeman so great.
“Even if you throw a pretty good location, you locate it pretty good, that doesn’t matter against him. He can still hit it out of the ballpark. So you can pitch to him, you can get him out, I have in the past. But I also know, you make a mistake, I mean, it can change a ball game in a flash.
“You relish those type of matchups, you relish those type of battles, because it really pushes yourself to be at your best, if not even find new ways to have to try to get him out and it challenges you and you got to, you know, match that.
“Even if he beats me, like I got to find, all right, take a page out of that, how did he beat me, learn from it and try to come back and get him again.
“So, like I said, he’s the best left-handed hitter I’ve had to face, specifically the past seven years and it’s been fun because this is what Major League Baseball does, it constantly brings you into competition with the best players in the league.”
Scherzer was available to start Game 1 if necessary
Although the Dodgers opted to rely on their bullpen for Game 1 of the NLCS, Scherzer was available to start if they needed him to.
“I mean, yeah, my arm was tired. You close that game, I would expect my arm to be tired,” Scherzer said. “The bigger question was, how was it going to be to bounce back for today?
“I have zero experience of trying to pitch on one day of rest, like relieving and come back. I do have experience of pitching on two days. In the 2019 run when I did pitch against the Dodgers, like I relieved Game 2 and then started Game 4.
“And even in Game 4, that start, I think I went to 100 pitches and that was a very taxing start in and of itself. So I knew that if I was going to pitch [Saturday], I was going to be limited in some form or capacity, that it was going to be somewhere in the pitch count between, call it, 60 to 90. I have no clue.
“The so that’s, when we just talked that what made most sense is just go pitch Game 2 and then you’re on a full slate and we know how to navigate games when I’m at full capacity.”
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