Max Scherzer relishing ‘privilege’ that is pressure of starting Game 1 vs. Padres

Max Scherzer Mets Game 1 NL Wild Card Series
New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer speaks during a news conference the day before a wild-card baseball playoff game against the San Diego Padres, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Max Scherzer set the tone for his time with the New York Mets during his introductory press conference back in December when he teased the very real possibility of being the ace to get the ball in important games come October.

“The pressure is a privilege, not a problem.”

Ten months later and Scherzer is in that exact situation, about to toe the rubber for Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series for the Mets against the San Diego Padres on Friday night (8:07 p.m. ET, ESPN) to kick off the best-of-three set from Citi Field. 

No, the sentiment from December hasn’t changed, either. 

“If you want me to double down on that quote I will. I don’t look at having pressure as a problem. That’s a privilege,” Scherzer said. “I still believe in that 100%. I want to be in these situations. I want to be competing for all the marbles. I want to be competing for a World Series and you have to be on a good team to do that.

“And you have to face the best teams, the best players across the game if you want to call yourself the best.”

The Padres have no shortage of Grade-A players that fit the mold.

“They’re good. Every lineup in the postseason is good. Every team is good,” Scherzer said. “It’s going to take everything out of us to be able to advance. There’s no such thing as a cakewalk in the postseason so definitely respect what the Padres can do, especially offensively.”

The middle of their lineup boasts the likes of Manny Machado amidst one of the best seasons of his career and Juan Soto — one of the best young hitters in the game and a former teammate of Scherzer’s in Washington with the Nationals. 

The two won a World Series together back in 2019 before Scherzer was shipped off to the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer. Soto was shockingly dealt to the Padres at the trade deadline this season.

“We had that moment where we won together but baseball does the craziest things and makes you face each other,” Scherzer said. “You have to face your friends and go out there and beat them. Those are the moments you remember, matchups you remember. He’s a great hitter. It’s going to take everything out of me to get him out.”

There will be no question whether or not the often-intense Scherzer will be able to get in that competitive zone against his old teammate. Nor will there be a question about his health. 

Despite dealing with oblique issues that kept him out for two-plus months this season, the 38-year-old right-hander said that he is “100%” and ready to throw 100-plus pitches on Friday night.

“For me, I look back on my career at these moments and love that I’ve had the opportunity to pitch in these games,” he said. “I’m just thankful that I have another opportunity to pitch in a postseason game.”

For more on the Mets and Max Scherzer in the NL Wild Card Series, visit AMNY.com