LOS ANGELES — The first one came in April 2008 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Max Scherzer struck out the first batter he faced in the big leagues – Jack Cassel, a pitcher with the Houston Astros whose big-league career did not last long and included seven strikeouts in 17 career at-bats.
A love affair had begun.
“I love strikeouts,” Scherzer said Sunday after becoming the 19th pitcher in baseball history to record 3,000 career strikeouts.
It’s not necessarily the mano y mano triumph a strikeout symbolizes as much as the practicality that attracts Scherzer.
“Because the ball isn’t in play. You can’t get hits if the ball’s not in play,” he said by way of explanation. “So, you want to get strikeouts efficiently. You don’t want to have an eight-pitch at-bat and get a strikeout. Yeah, that’s great but it drives your pitch count up. You want to be getting efficient strikeouts, three, four pitches. That’s what I try to sequence for is to be able to get efficient strikeouts, because when the ball’s in play anything can happen.
“But when you strike somebody out, you’ve got to do something right and you usually have to do something right for three pitches to be able to make that work. So that’s why I love them. You’re going to be a better pitcher for it if you can strike more guys out.”
Scherzer joined a select club with his 3,000th strikeout. More batters (32) have reached 3,000 hits than pitchers who have struck out 3,000. Of the 19, Scherzer is one of only seven to also have three or more Cy Young awards (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver and Greg Maddux). All but one (Clemens and his tainted career) are in the Hall of Fame.
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I’m not aware of that. That’s pretty cool,” Scherzer said when told of his exclusive company. “When you say that, it’s crazy to even think about so it’s hard to really appreciate something like that. I’ve always said it usually takes a year to fully appreciate some of the things. When you win a Cy Young or you win awards or you accomplish a milestone, it usually takes a year to fully appreciate what that means in the context of everything.
“So I go out there, keep pitching, keep dreaming up new things to be able to do, and hopefully, you get more perspective and appreciate the history of this more a year from now.”
Scherzer’s 3,000th strikeout (Eric Hosmer was the victim in the fifth inning) brought a roar from the crowd and a standing ovation. He tipped his cap on the mound and later collected the baseball as a memento. His parents, wife and three children were all on hand for the moment.
“I think the takeaway from this is that it’s all the hard work I put in to be able to have this moment – that’s what feels good,” he said.
“It does take durability. It takes year in, year out and you have to execute. That’s why it’s a cool milestone because … to me, it’s more of a token of durability than ability.”
Chris Taylor was out of the lineup again Sunday and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said there was only “slight improvement” in the neck injury that has limited Taylor recently.
“It just impedes his swing, the running – all of it,” Roberts said. “So we’ll stay away from him again today. I just don’t know when his return to play is. … We’re going to hold off on an IL situation in the hopes that there’s more improvement.”
Taylor is mired in a slump with just four hits and 23 strikeouts in his past 51 at-bats. After hitting .277 with an .834 OPS to make his first All-Star team, Taylor has hit .229 with a .733 OPS since the break.
Roberts acknowledged the neck injury has probably been a factor in Taylor’s slide recently.
“I know Chris would never say that,” Roberts said. “But my guess is it’s (been affecting him) a week to 10 days back.”
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen and his wife, Gianni, welcomed the arrival of a baby daughter Sunday morning. The girl named Key’Gia Keziah Jansen was born at 10:06 a.m. Sunday, checking in at a healthy 7 pounds, 14 ounces.
The Dodgers placed Jansen on the paternity list and activated right-hander Mitch White. Jansen would have been unavailable Sunday anyway after pitching in the previous three games and running his season total to 32 saves.
Jansen is expected to rejoin the active roster on Tuesday.
Diamondbacks (TBA) at Dodgers (LHP Clayton Kershaw, 9-7, 3.39 ERA), Monday, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM