LOS ANGELES — LaMonte Wade Jr. remembers Max Scherzer challenging with fastballs early. Well, actually, now that Wade Jr. thinks about it, “he was attacking the whole time with the heater,” he said.
First pitch: 94 mph fastball just off the outside corner. Second: 89 mph cutter fouled off. Two more fastballs, 93 and 94 mph. A curve inside to keep Wade Jr. honest, then another fastball to earn a flyout to shallow left.
That plate appearance came on June 11, when Scherzer was a National and Wade Jr. had hit just three home runs on the year. Scherzer left the game with a groin injury during Brandon Belt’s at-bat right after Wade Jr.’s, ending his night after 12 pitches.
They were the only 12 pitches he threw to the Giants in 2021.
Scherzer, an eight-time All-Star, enters his Game 3 start against the Giants having only faced Wade Jr., Belt (out with a fractured thumb) and Kris Bryant (with the Cubs) in 2021. He has history with many of the Giants veterans, but even they haven’t stood 60 feet, six inches from him in over a year. In a pivotal NLDS matchup against former Dodger Alex Wood, that recent unfamiliarity could give the ace an edge.
“I think that you don’t know until you know, but the unfamiliarity, I think, kind of tips the scale in the pitcher’s favor,” LA manager Dave Roberts said. “Because I think that that’s why being more familiar with guys and familiarity with their characteristics and what the pitch mix is certainly helps the hitter. So I think that’s an advantage. But again we still have to go out there and make pitches.”
Wade Jr. doesn’t buy that, though. “I don’t see that as an advantage,” he told KNBR. The Giants are going to do their homework and break down his arsenal in advance meetings Sunday night, he added.
Veteran third baseman Evan Longoria concurs with the 27-year-old outfielder.
“All the information is there,” Longoria said. “We’ve seen every pitch he has to throw. It’s going to be a battle of the mindsets, I think. It’s going to be him trying to make pitches and us trying to grind out at-bats. Hopefully he makes mistakes…We know he’s going to come to battle. We have to be prepared to match that intensity tomorrow.”
The Dodgers haven’t lost a game Scherzer started since he joined the team — including the NL Wild Card Game. He’s recorded a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts with 89 strikeouts and eight walks.
Scherzer has only been with the organization since late July, but understands the history between the two clubs.
“Our Dodger fan base definitely wants us to definitely beat the Giants,” Scherzer said. “It’s personal to them, so it’s personal to us. We want to win, we respect the heck out of the Giants and what they, how good they are, but you got to go out there and believe that you can beat them.”
The three-time Cy Young winner is also one of the most fearsome playoff pitchers of all time. In 2019, he didn’t take a single loss for the World Series champion Nationals, allowing eight earned runs across 30 innings. He has the eighth-most career postseason strikeouts in MLB history.
But while almost all of the Giants haven’t faced him in 2021, Scherzer has a special place in Giants lore.
The last time Scherzer faced the Giants in the postseason, Buster Posey crushed a go-ahead home run in Game 4 of the 2012 World Series. The rest is Even Year history.
Posey and the other experienced Giants sluggers have seen Scherzer in the past. Posey is 2-for-15 lifetime against the righty. Longoria is 2-for-19. Bryant 2-for-20. Wilmer Flores 0-for-17.
They’ve seen Scherzer plenty of times, and Scherzer’s watched them retreat back to their dugout with their heads down.
Brandon Crawford, however, is 7-for-17 with three doubles in his career against Scherzer. But like most of the hitters that will step in against Scherzer in Game 3, he’s 0-for-0 against him this season.
“You know, the playoffs are a whole different animal,” Wade Jr. said. “I feel like you can throw away everything that happened in the past. It’s a brand new series, a brand new game. Anything can happen.”