Rangers’ Max Scherzer struggles in return as Astros win Game 3

Buster OlneyESPN Senior WriterOctober 18, 2023, 11:57 p.m. ET4 minute read

Jose Altuve’s 413-foot HR extends Astros’ lead

Jose Altuve crushes a solo home run to left field to give the Astros a 4-0 lead over the Rangers in Game 3.

ARLINGTON, Texas – If the Texas Rangers want to win the World Series, they’ll probably need Max Scherzer to make at least one more start, maybe as many as three – and they’ll need him to do much better than he did . did so Wednesday night against the Astros, when he allowed five runs in four innings.

Making his first appearance in a major championship game in 36 days, after being sidelined with a strained right shoulder, Scherzer struggled to control his slider, the pitch that made the difference for him throughout his career. The Rangers were unable to overcome the deficit, losing 8-5 to see their ALCS lead cut to 2-1.

“It comes down to execution,” said Scherzer, who repeatedly said he hadn’t been able to finish pitches the way he had planned, his words falling soft and fast in front of his locker . “I know what I have to do.”

Scherzer’s first pitch was 95 mph, even more speed than Rangers manager Bruce Bochy hoped for; Given Scherzer’s long absence, Bochy mentioned before the game that he would be happy if Scherzer reached 93 mph. And Scherzer swung his curveball effectively.

But his slider wasn’t sharp and he couldn’t use it to finish off batters, as he so often did during his career. Scherzer threw 13 sliders and allowed more hits (two) with the pitch than he generated missed swings.

As Astros second baseman Jose Altuve acknowledged after the game, this allowed Houston’s hitters to focus and look for pitches to drive.

Altuve popped a high fastball for a home run, among the five hits Scherzer allowed, and as Scherzer tried to establish his slider or an alternative, he hit Yordan Alvarez with a pitch, threw a wild pitch and issued a walk.

“He’s going to be a little rusty overall,” said Bochy, who retired Scherzer after four innings and 63 pitches. “I was really happy with his work. It’s only going to get better. … He feels good, that’s what’s important.”

As he left the field in the fourth inning, Scherzer stopped for a brief conversation with Bochy as he reached the dugout, Bochy pointing toward the bullpen. Rookie left-hander Cody Bradford replaced him in the fifth.

“I was trying to communicate how I felt,” Scherzer said. “I’m not second-guessing any decision, but it’s also my job as a starting pitcher to communicate how I feel. I still felt strong. I still felt like I could get some outs. Then, It’s up to them to make the decision if they want to use me or not.

The Rangers name left-hander Andrew Heaney as the likely starter for Game 4 on Thursday night. If Bochy maintains his rotation in his current lineup, Scherzer would be on track to start Game 7 in Houston.

“I don’t know exactly how I will be used from now on,” Scherzer said. “But my arm feels good. That’s the No. 1 thing.”

Bochy explained how, moving forward, Scherzer will play an important role for the Rangers.

“We did everything we could to get him ready,” Bochy said of Scherzer. “He was ready. You saw the thing. He’s one of our guys. There’s no regrets about that.”

For much of September, it was doubtful whether Scherzer would pitch again this year, and step by step he rebuilt his arm strength, threw simulated games and spoke hopefully about wanting to contribute. His first attempt at help went badly; it was the Rangers’ first loss after seven straight playoff victories.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

Leave a Comment