In the 1970 NBA finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks’ Willis Reed tore a thigh muscle in Game Five, and New York lost Game Six without him. How could the New Yorkers win Game Seven, and the NBA championship, without their captain?
At the beginning of May 8, 1970’s Game Seven, after getting shot up with painkillers, Reed limped onto the court, drained a couple of jumpers, and a few minutes later left the game, not to return. His heroic, if brief appearance, inspired his teammates, above all young point guard Walt Frazier, who had a career game, getting 19 assists, 7 rebounds, and scoring 36 points, to lead the Knicks to a 113-99 victory, and their first NBA championship.
Tonight, we have seen a similar phenomenon, as an injured Max Scherzer started Game Seven for the Nats.
Scherzer, who had been an iron man for the Tigers and Nats, respectively, from 2013-2018, winning three Cy Young awards and having deserved a fourth in 2018, showed himself to be merely human this season, as he endured facial and back injuries that cost him two stretches on the disabled list. (When players get long in the tooth, they are prone to "freak" injuries that weren't really freakish.)
In the World Series, he won his start in Game One, but struggled in very un-Scherzer-like style, having control issues that caused him to throw 112 pitches in a mere five innings. Still, Scherzer (3-0 this postseason) and the Nats won, 5-4, on the road in Houston against “the best team in baseball” (just about everyone).
Someone forgot to tell the never-say-die Nats, who had started the season 19-31, that their job was to lose.
Joe Ross, who hadn’t started game in months, started Game Five and was the first of a parade of Nats pitchers who got their brains beaten in, in a 7-1 victory for the Astros’ Gerrit Cole that put the Nats’ backs against the wall.
In Game Six, Stephen Strasburg (5-0 this postseason) pitched the game of his life for his second victory in this World Series, as the Nats won 7-2, and Justin Verlander choked yet again. Although Strasburg gave up two runs in the first inning—he later related that his pitching coach had told him he was tipping off his pitches by grunting when he threw his fastball but not for his change-up—he then threw seven scoreless innings.
That set up things for Game Seven. Who would pitch for the Nats? It was Max or bust. Before the game, he got a cortisone shot, and pronounced himself ready to go.
It was yet another less-than-vintage Max Scherzer outing. Although he was able to reach 96 mph on the radar gun, he was constantly falling behind in counts, unable to put away hitters or get quick outs. He walked four, and struck out only three. At the end of five innings, he’d thrown 102 pitches, and given up two earned runs. Score: 2-0, Houston.
As by now is widely known, Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled his dominant starter, future Hall of Famer Zach Greinke, despite a low pitch count in the seventh inning, and the Nats mounted another of their patented late comebacks against Astros relievers who choked, to win the first championship of the franchise’s 51-year-history.
It was the first World Series ever in which every game was won by the road team. Stephen Strasburg was awarded a richly deserved 2019 World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
Max Scherzer’s baseball future doesn’t look very bright, but in about seven years he’ll take three Cy Young awards, two no-hitters, one 20-strikeout game and a World Series ring with him to Cooperstown.
Award-winning, New York-based freelancer Nicholas Stix founded A Different Drummer magazine (1989-93). Stix has written for Die Suedwest Presse, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Middle American News, Toogood Reports, Insight, Chronicles, the American Enterprise, Campus Reports, VDARE, the Weekly Standard, Front Page Magazine, Ideas on Liberty, National Review Online and the Illinois Leader. His column also appears at Men's News Daily, MichNews, Intellectual Conservative, Enter Stage Right and OpinioNet. Stix has studied at colleges and universities on two continents, and earned a couple of sheepskins, but he asks that the reader not hold that against him. His day jobs have included washing pots, building Daimler-Benzes on the assembly-line, tackling shoplifters and teaching college, but his favorite job was changing his son's diapers.