Max Scherzer’s neck issue helped make his first career home run possible

Max Scherzer removed himself from Tuesday’s game in the second inning with neck spasms and the Nationals bullpen couldn’t hold a six-run lead against the Marlins. After Washington’s eventual 7-6 loss in Miami, Scherzer downplayed the severity of his injury and vowed that he wouldn’t let anyone forget the bright spot from his abbreviated outing: the first home run of his career.

“They’re not going to hear the end of it,” Scherzer said. “I’ll probably have shirts made and everything.”

Scherzer said he woke up with a crick in his neck a few days ago and the stiffness worsened after the first inning Tuesday. While the pain made it impossible for Scherzer to continue pitching, the Nationals ace’s neck issue was a benefit when he stepped into the batter’s box with two runners on in the top of the second inning.

“The thing with having a tight neck, not being able to look left, it actually helped out my baseball swing,” Scherzer said. “I couldn’t pull my head out. I had to just stay locked in, and that actually gave me a better swing. So sure enough, that’s the reason I hit a home run.”

After his first home run in 262 at-bats, Scherzer, who has been known to leave printouts of his batting stats on his manager’s desk, is hitting .191 with a .226 on-base percentage and .218 slugging for his career. Facing an 0-2 count against Marlins starter Chris O’Grady, Scherzer said he was just trying to make contact, and even started to show bunt as O’Grady came set.

“He just threw me a cut-slider the pitch before, so I figured he was going to throw that thing again,” Scherzer said. “Pitchers are terrible at hitting breaking balls. I was ready for it and was just trying to make contact and hit it the other way. He threw it in one spot where I put a one-in-a-million swing on it and sure enough I hit it out.”

Scherzer received the silent treatment in the dugout before receiving a round of high-fives. Scherzer’s teammates and wife, Erica May-Scherzer, know he won’t ever be silent about hitting his first career home run.

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Erica requested GIFs and memes of Max running to first base, mouth agape, after realizing he got a hold of O’Grady’s pitch, and Nationals fans were happy to oblige.

More on the Nationals:

Brandon Kintzler doesn’t need strikeouts to be effective for Nationals

Dave Jageler almost calls a no-hitter in his first TV broadcast in years

Kintzler was feeding a rhino when he learned he’d been traded

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