Max Scherzer doesn't know if he will be traded before Friday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline, but with rumors swirling, it certainly felt Thursday like he had pitched his final game for the Washington Nationals, the franchise he led to the World Series title in 2019.
He allowed one run over six innings and picked up the win -- his 92nd for the Nationals in the regular season -- when his longtime catcher Yan Gomes hit a two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to give the Nationals a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the first game of a doubleheader.
With the Nationals slumping badly in July, they traded closer Brad Hand to the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the day. Scherzer could be next, with the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox the leading candidates to land the three-time Cy Young winner.
"I don't want to look at this as a negative thing," Scherzer said after the game. "I'd rather look at this as a positive thing. I signed a seven-year deal here and we won a World Series. That's the first thing I said when I signed, that I was here to win. And we won. We won a World Series. That's a lifelong dream come true and something I'll always be proud of with these guys here, to be part of a championship team, looking forward to reunions and stuff like that."
Scherzer was scratched from his last start with triceps discomfort, so this was a final opportunity for the Nationals to showcase that he was healthy. He allowed just three hits, struck out five and threw 88 pitches. After he recorded his final out in the bottom of the sixth, teammates and coaches greeted him in the dugout with handshakes and hugs.
Scherzer indicted the triceps felt better.
"Just working through it, getting back in the groove of things," he said. "I never like missing starts. For me to get back here, get six innings in, get back in my routines, that's when everything feels great."
If this was Scherzer's last game with the Nationals, he finishes 92-47 with a 2.80 ERA for them over 188 starts, including Cy Young Awards in 2016 and 2017, plus second- and third-place finishes in 2018 and 2019. In the 2019 postseason, he went 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA and was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series -- after getting scratched from his Game 5 start when he woke up that day and couldn't move his neck.
Scherzer, 37, originally signed with the Nationals before the 2015 season.
"For me, this is where my family started. I came here without kids and now I have three kids. I've watched my girls grow up here," he said. "Living in Virginia in the DMV area, I've really gotten used to it, all the politics that are going around. Being in the nation's capital has been kind of fun as well, driving by the monuments every day. ... What can you say about the fans? That championship will always mean something to all of us and we'll always have that flag."
It's been a wild 24 hours for the Nationals, with all the Scherzer trade rumors, the COVID-19 outbreak that included four players and eight staff members, the Hand trade and then perhaps Scherzer's final start for the team. Asked how he felt knowing that his Nationals career might be over, Scherzer said it was difficult to look into the future, but he sounded like he was ready to accept a trade -- wherever that lands him.
"Today was a wacky start with all the hoopla and everything going around, but put your head down, put the blinders on, go out and compete, you do it for each other," he said. "I loved seeing [Gerardo] Parra get the hit and Yan hit the home run, so it's the relationships that you make and how you go about it and how you play the game. Even when you're at your worst, when you have COVID, when you have trades, all this stuff going down, you want to go out and do your best. That's something I hope everyone appreciates."