Mound visits to Scherzer, Verlander a study in contrasts
Detroit — Brad Ausmus didn’t see the video of Max Scherzer’s emotional outburst Friday night when Nationals manager Matt Williams came out to check on him in the seventh inning of a 2-2 game — he didn’t really need to.
“I read about it,” Ausmus said, shaking his head. “Talk about making a mountain of a molehill.”
Scherzer cursed and stomped and adamantly let Williams know he wanted to stay in the game. Ausmus has been there and done that with Scherzer. And he’s never looked at that part of Scherzer’s makeup as a negative.
“It’s just Max,” Ausmus said. “Max has done that with me. He’s emotional on the mound. When he wants to stay in, he is very emphatic about it. He wasn’t yelling at Matt Williams about anything.”
Ausmus said it would be different if Williams was asking for the ball and Scherzer was refusing to give it to him. Williams only wanted to make sure Scherzer, who was at 102 pitches, felt OK.
“I’ve done that with Max; you ask how he’s doing,” Ausmus said. “He’s at 100 pitches. It’s late in the season. He might be tiring. You want to get a feel and find out if they are OK. And with Max it’s very easy because Max will be honest with you.
“If he wants to be in, he’s going to be emphatic and emotional about it. If he thinks he’s done, he’s going to say, ‘I think I’ve emptied the tank.’ ”
Interesting that on the same night, Ausmus incurred the wrath (temporarily) of Justin Verlander — and the Tigers fan base — when he removed him with two outs in the ninth inning and the Tigers leading 3-1.
“Ver will fight me occasionally,” Ausmus said. “He wants to get 27 outs. But I will say it again — it was absolutely a no-brainer. You look at what happened with the previous three hitters (two loud outs and a single by Eric Hosmer), how many pitches he’d thrown (114) and how Salvador Perez has done against him (.450, 6-for-9 this season).
“I understand people want to see Justin get a complete game. I want to see Justin get a complete game. But when Hosmer gets on, the decision for me is made.”
Ausmus knows that unlike Scherzer, Verlander will not be honest. He wants to stay in the game regardless. So he didn’t give Verlander a chance to lobby. He signaled to the bullpen before he got to the third base line.
After the game, Verlander chided the fans for booing in that situation, but he made it clear that he didn’t want to come out of the game.
“I want the ball,” Verlander said. “It’s up to the manager to take me out. It was that way with (former manager Jim) Leyland and it’s that way with Brad. If I ever get to make the decision, I want to stay in. Those guys know that. It’s their decision to make.”
So, which does a manager prefer, the honest, albeit demonstrative approach of Scherzer or having to pry the ball out of Verlander’s hands?
“There is an upside to both,” Ausmus said. “It’s nice to have a guy be honest. But it’s also nice to have a guy who wants to be in the game for 27 outs. It’s a lost mindset nowadays.”
Ausmus said he knew full well boos were coming the minute he stepped out of the dugout. They weren’t going to deter him.
“That wasn’t a tough decision,” he said. “I can’t make decisions based on whether the fans are going to like me or not. You make decisions based on what is best for the team. There have been tough decisions when it comes to leaving pitchers in or removing a pitcher — that was not one of them.”
Several players — Verlander, Victor Martinez, Nick Castellanos — have expressed their bewilderment over the frequency, intensity and voracity of the fans’ discontent, going back to the end of last season when the team was booed in the playoffs.
“Booing is part of the game,” Ausmus said. “It’s how fans can express their disappointment. The truth is, fans just want to win. Sometimes people forget that nobody wants to win more than the guys in the uniform.
“But if players feel a certain way, that’s their prerogative to talk about it.”