Admit it: Somewhere around the fifth inning of Max Scherzer‘s start Friday night against the Philadelphia Phillies, you were expecting history. Not just hoping for it or believing it was possible. You assumed it would happen.

“It,” of course, being a second consecutive no-hitter. If Scherzer had managed the feat—and he teased us, not allowing a baserunner in this 5-2 road win until Freddy Galvis doubled with one out in the sixth—he’d have become just the second big league pitcher to do so. The other, Johnny Vander Meer, did it in 1938.

For now, Vander Meer remains alone in his exclusive club. But the mere fact that Scherzer came so close, and had basically everyone convinced he could do it, tells you all you need to know about how far the ace right-hander has elevated his game.

Yes, he was facing the woeful Phillies, cellar-dwellers in the National League East who saw their manager, Ryne Sandberg, resign earlier in the day, as reported by‘s David Murphy.

And yes, Scherzer has been good for a while now. He won an American League Cy Young Award in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers, after all, and posted a career-high 252 strikeouts last season.

But something seems to have clicked since Scherzer arrived in the nation’s capital, some other gear we didn’t know he had. Maybe even he didn’t know he had it.

Scherzer‘s overall numbers with the Washington Nationals are excellent: 1.79 ERA, 110.1 innings pitched, 130 strikeouts.

But over his last three starts, he’s truly become a one-man, must-watch event.

On June 14, he took a perfect game into the seventh and wound up with a complete-game, one-hit, 16-strikeout shutout against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Then, on June 20, came the no-hitter, during which he retired 26 straight Pittsburgh Pirates before beaning Jose Tabata. It was a painfully close pass at perfection but still a transcendent performance.

By comparison, Friday’s win over the Phils was second-tier, B-side Scherzer, as he lasted “only” eight frames and surrendered two earned runs.

In the midst of all that stellar pitching, Scherzer put together an eye-popping scoreless stretch, as CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman highlighted:

CBS Sports‘ Mike Axisa joined in the praise parade:

Scherzer is on an extended run of dominance right now, the likes of which we don’t see very often. A one-hitter, a no-hitter, then eight innings of two-run ball? Any one of those three would represent the best start of the season for most pitchers. Scherzer‘s done all that in the span of two weeks. He is the best pitcher in baseball right now…

“[This] is some of the best baseball I’ve thrown, best pitching I’ve done,” Scherzer said after his no-no, per‘s Jacob Emert and Tom Singer. “I just feel like I’m executing with all my pitches. I just continue to keep getting better and it shows you hard work pays off.”

Hard work and, perhaps, a move to the Senior Circuit. Not to take anything away from Scherzer, who looks like he could get anyone out right now without breaking a sweat, but it’s worth noting that his uptick from very good to great has coincided with his move to a league that doesn’t feature the designated hitter.

A look at Scherzer‘s PITCHf/x data, per FanGraphs, doesn’t reveal anything radical, though his fastball velocity is up a tick compared to last year (93.6 mph versus 92.8 mph). He’s also relying a bit more heavily on his slider and a bit less on his changeup.

Whatever the reason, Scherzer has attained elite status. He gives off that vibe every time he takes the hill that something is happening. Think Clayton Kershaw during last year’s Cy Young/MVP campaign (but not so much Kershaw in the playoffs).

Can it continue? Can Scherzer ride this wave straight to a second Cy Young Award and join an elite fraternity of hurlers who have won the prize in both leagues? Right now, that group includes Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay and Gaylord Perry.

With the way he’s been throwing, Scherzer‘s name fits right in. Perhaps he’ll hit a few bumps this summer, as even the great ones do. But there’s every reason to assume the Nats can ride him straight through to October.

OK, here’s one more testimonial of how dominant Scherzer has been. In compiling the latest installment of Bleacher Report’s Team of the Week, I gave Scherzer only an “honorable mention,” even after his no-hitter (the week in question didn’t feature either of his other starts).

My reasoning was simply that anything less than perfection feels like less than what Scherzer is capable of. He’s being judged on another level because he’s playing on another level.

Call it unfair. Call it stupid. Just don’t forget to call him flat-out filthy.


All statistics current as of June 26 and courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on