Max Scherzer’s routine lately has included watching a certain superhero on the screen with his young daughters.
“We love ‘Batman’ right now,” Scherzer said Thursday before a Mets workout at Citi Field. “So I feel like I am doing some good parenting.”
Gotham City’s fate is intriguing, but the Mets will ask the 38-year-old Scherzer to put aside Batman for a night and become the Bat-misser who was signed to a three-year contract worth $130 million in part because of his postseason pedigree.
The Mets will send Scherzer to the mound Friday for the franchise’s first playoff game since 2016. In this best-of-three wild-card format the room for error is greater than in previous one-and-done days, but still not enough that a loss can be easily dismissed.
Yu Darvish, who pitched to a 0.64 ERA in his two starts against the Mets this season, will be the mound opponent. Darvish owns a 2.56 ERA in eight career starts against the Mets.
Manager Buck Showalter confirmed his plan is to align his rotation based on the Game 1 result. If the Mets win, that likely would mean deploying Chris Bassitt on Saturday and trying to sweep the series without using Jacob deGrom, who could then potentially pitch Game 1 and 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. But if the Mets were to lose Game 1 or 2 of this wild-card round, deGrom could pitch an elimination game.
“The tiebreaker will always be what is best for these three games,” Showalter said.
He added: “One of the reasons we have been able to put together a pretty good year is we have some depth in our rotation. It’s kind of been a strength of our club that they can put their egos aside and do what is best for the team.”
Scherzer has 26 career postseason appearances with the Tigers, Nationals and Dodgers, pitching to a 7-6 record with a 3.22 ERA and 1.104 WHIP over that stretch. Most notably he won three games in the 2019 postseason, which concluded with a World Series title for Washington.
The Mets will almost certainly need a better version of Scherzer than they received last Saturday in Atlanta, where he allowed four earned runs over 5 ²/₃ innings in part of a lost weekend for the club. After that start, Scherzer turned toward refining mechanics he said were amiss.
“I just needed to clean up little things in my delivery to be consistent, where I want to execute pitches,” Scherzer said. “I have made this fix before, many times. You just get out of whack throughout the season.
“It’s easy when you win a ballgame, you don’t critique yourself as hard. But when you lose a ballgame you look at everything. It’s how you take a loss in this league. You have got to be able to take a loss to be able to critique yourself and fix what you need to fix.”
Scherzer said the oblique soreness that forced him to miss two starts late in the season hasn’t been a factor. Overall, he went 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 145 ¹/₃ innings during the regular season.
In his lone appearance against the Padres this season, he pitched six innings and allowed two earned runs on July 22 at Citi Field. Since then, the Padres have added Scherzer’s former Nationals teammate Juan Soto to a lineup that includes MVP candidate Manny Machado.
“We had a moment where we won together,” Scherzer said, referring to Soto. “But baseball does the craziest things: It makes you face each other. You have got to face your friends and go out and beat them.
“Everything is on the line. Win or go home. That is the attitude you have to have. You get to the postseason and every day feels like a must-win day and must-win game, whether it’s an elimination game or not.”