Tag: Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer Injury: Nationals SP Suffers Stress Fracture in Knuckle

Max Scherzer has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball over the last five years, but the Washington Nationals ace is on the mend after suffering a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. 

He added that Scherzer will not be able to participate with the United States at the World Baseball Classic but will be ready for spring training.

For the U.S. team, it will have to rely more on the likes of Chris Archer and Marcus Stroman to anchor the starting rotation.

The Nationals breezed through the National League East in 2016, and Scherzer was a key reason why. The 32-year-old went 20-7 and led the NL with 284 strikeouts and a 0.968 WHIP. 

Hearing of an injury to a key pitcher within the Nationals pitching staff isn’t anything new. Stephen Strasburg, who has battled injuries throughout his first seven years in the majors, missed the final month of a 15-4 season due to a strained flexor mass. 

The Nationals wouldn’t have had much depth in the rotation if Scherzer went down. Behind Strasburg, Tanner Roark was terrific in 2016, but Gio Gonzalez was inconsistent and Joe Ross was sidelined for most of last year due to shoulder inflammation. 

Scherzer has been one of MLB‘s most durable pitchers, making at least 30 starts every year since 2009. Luckily for him and the Nationals, that streak won’t be in jeopardy based on the extent of this injury. The Nationals can stay on their course of planning to repeat as National League East champions. 

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Max Scherzer Joins Rarefied Air with AL, NL Cy Young Double Dip

Max Scherzer has thrown no-hitters. He’s struck out 20 batters in a game. On Wednesday, he joined a club that counts Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay as its only other members.

Here’s your smoking jacket, Max. Pedro will teach you the secret handshake.

In a landslide decision, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America named Scherzer the National League Cy Young Award winner. He’s the sixth pitcher to claim the prize in both leagues—he won it in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers—and joins the pack of aces listed above.

The Washington Nationals right-hander got 25 of 30 possible first-place votes. The Chicago Cubs‘ Kyle Hendricks and Los Angeles Dodgers‘ Clayton Kershaw got two first-place votes each, and the Cubs’ Jon Lester got one.

Scherzer posted a 2.96 ERA, led the NL with 228.1 innings and notched an MLB-leading 284 strikeouts. He also went 20-7, though the outmoded win stat doesn’t carry the cache it once did.

The Nats’ season ended in disappointment. They were eliminated in the NL Division Series by the Dodgers, with Scherzer throwing six strong innings but taking a no-decision in the deciding Game 5.

That may explain his drive to improve in 2017.

“I want to find a new way to be better, go out there and find new ways to get guys out,” Scherzer said, per USA Today‘s Jorge L. Ortiz. “I’ve been dreaming up different ways to do it. When I get to spring training, that will be my thing, to find a new way.”

Washington would be fine with more of the old way.

Some pitchers wobble under the weight of big contracts—we’re looking at you, Zack Greinke and David Price. Scherzer, meanwhile, has delivered on his top-of-the-rotation pedigree since inking a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nats in January 2015.

In two seasons with Washington, Scherzer has gone 34-19, notched a 2.88 ERA, averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings and posted the second-highest WAR (12) among pitchers in either league, according to FanGraphs’ measure.

He’s had headline-grabbing moments, too, including his pair of no-nos in 2015 and the aforementioned 20-strikeout game in May, which tied the MLB record.

Stephen Strasburg has the stuff to be special when healthy. Tanner Roark roared back after a disappointing 2015 and led Nationals starters with a 2.83 ERA last season. Scherzer, however, has been Washington’s rock and undisputedly its best pitcher.

If Kershaw hadn’t missed all of July and August with a back injury, he might have won his fourth career Cy Young. Even with his time on the shelf, the Dodgers ace got first-place votes. When healthy, he’s probably still the top arm in baseball.

Scherzer is in the conversation, however, with his durability, bat-missing stuff and propensity for historic achievements.

There were Cy Young arguments to be made for Hendricks and Lester, who finished 1-2 in the big leagues with ERA marks of 2.13 and 2.44, respectively.

Scherzer’s case was tough to quash, though, as Lester himself winkingly acknowledged:

Scherzer is 32. His production could falter in the waning years of his Nationals tenure. That’s been the fate of most pitchers who’ve signed nine-figure deals, as the Washington Post‘s Barry Svrluga outlined:

The 19 pitchers who have signed $100-million deals, Scherzer included, generally have delivered in the first two years of the contract, as Scherzer did. … Averages over the first two seasons:

13-8 record, 3.28 ERA, 1.150 WHIP with 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings, averaging 197-2/3 innings pitched.

But compare that to seasons three and beyond:

8-6 record, 3.73 ERA, 1.251 WHIP, 7.55 [SO/9] and, most alarmingly, 131-1/3 innings pitched.

Maybe a decline is imminent. Maybe this will be Mad Max’s zenith, and it’s all downhill from here. That’s hand-wringing for another day, however.

For now, Nats fans can rejoice, or at least accept their ace’s award as a consolation prize for another fizzled postseason run.

Scherzer, meanwhile, can slip on his Cy-in-each-league coat, grab a seat at the table and give the Big Unit the secret handshake.

He’s earned it.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Max Scherzer Wins 2016 NL Cy Young Award: Voting Results and Comments

Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer has won the 2016 National League Cy Young Award, announced Major League Baseball.

The pitcher earned 25 first-place votes, per the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, beating out Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Here is a full look at the voting results in a tightly contested race:

Players like Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez also deserved consideration in a loaded field of aces.

Scherzer posted a 2.96 ERA this season to go with a 20-7 record, giving him the most wins in the National League. He also led his league in innings pitched (228.1), strikeouts (284) and WHIP (0.968).

After throwing two no-hitters a year ago, the 32-year-old was just as effective in 2016, gaining an advantage thanks to a better team around him.

“These guys absolutely supported me the whole year, playing defense, going out there and scoring runs, and our bullpen coming in and shutting the door,” Scherzer said in October, per Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. “I don’t win 20 without the rest of these guys in the clubhouse. They’ve been grinding the whole year for me. It’s just an unbelievable honor.”

Playing for a first-place team helped Scherzer go from 14 wins to 20, as well as fifth in the Cy Young voting to first. This represents his second career Cy Young Award after winning the American League version in 2013. He has finished in the top five in each of the past four seasons, earning an All-Star nod in all of them.

The Nationals signed Scherzer to a seven-year deal worth $210 million before the start of the 2015 season. While he will remain on the books for a long time, Washington is getting more than its money’s worth through the first two years.

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NLDS Game 5 Can Put Max Scherzer Back on Map as Clutch Postseason Ace

Max Scherzer has started 276 games in the major leagues. That includes 11 in the postseason, which have covered a World Series game and Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

According to him, none of these compares to his assignment in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday.

“This is probably the biggest start of my career, the biggest start of my life,” the Washington Nationals ace said about his date with the Los Angeles Dodgers, via MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “How you handle that, going out there and using the emotion of that scenario that everything’s on the linelook, I’m not going to shy away from it. This is the biggest start of my career.”

This might be Scherzer’s lust for revenge speaking for him. The NLDS is tied 2-2 in part because he fell flat in Game 1, allowing four runs in six innings in a 4-3 loss. Surely, the former Cy Young Award winner wants redemption.

Still, there’s no denying the other stakes at play in Game 5.

Supposedly too battered and bruised for the task, the Nationals are trying to finish off an upset over the favored Dodgers. Including their past life as the Montreal Expos, the Nationals are also trying to go to just the second National League Championship Series in franchise history.

There’s also more than just revenge at stake for Scherzer. He’s been as advertised in two seasons since signing his $210 million contract, but a clutch postseason performance would be much-appreciated icing on the proverbial cake. It would also put him back on the map as a postseason ace. 

It’s hard to look back and see other cases of postseason dominance while still being blinded by the ethereal October light of Madison Bumgarner. But Scherzer was darn good for the Detroit Tigers in 2012 and 2013. He made seven total appearances, including six starts, and racked up a 2.50 ERA while holding hitters to a .173 average and .572 OPS.

The best part? In 39.2 innings, he struck out 60 batters. That’s a rate of 13.8 batters per nine innings. He was basically 2001 Randy Johnson for two Octobers.

Scherzer hasn’t missed a beat in three regular seasons since then, racking up a 2.96 ERA and striking out 10.8 batters per nine innings.

After winning one in 2013, he was a top-five finisher in the Cy Young voting in 2014 and 2015. He may be the favorite to win it in the National League this year after posting a 2.96 ERA and leading the NL in wins (20), innings (228.1) and strikeouts (284).

However, that 2013 postseason remains the last time anyone saw Scherzer at his October best.

Before his flop in Game 1 of the NLDS, he endured a five-run flop against the Baltimore Orioles in Game 1 of the ALDS back in 2014. Go back a little further, and the fine print has a reminder that he unraveled against the Boston Red Sox late in Game 6 of the 2013 ALCS.

Scherzer could ask for worse circumstances for getting off the schneid on Thursday. He’ll be at home in Nationals Park. He’ll be facing a Dodgers lineup that, while formidable, is hitting just .221 with a .686 OPS in this series. He’ll be opposed by some combination of Rich Hill on three days’ rest and Julio Urias making his first postseason appearance.

There is one thing that could sink Scherzer: home runs. He led the NL by giving up 31 of them in the regular season. He gave up two more to Corey Seager and Justin Turner in Game 1. Going back to the end of the regular season, he’s served up multiple dingers in three out of his last four starts.

Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post dug into Brooks Baseball and noticed that Scherzer’s arm slot has dropped, leading to a flatter fastball. It’s also been slower, as Scherzer has worked with his worst velocity all season in October.

Less life and less velocity are never good things, but they’re especially bad things for Scherzer in light of how he uses his fastball. He’ll work both sides of the plate, but he mostly prefers to challenge hitters in terms of vertical placement:

Scherzer can normally get away with this due to the sheer electricity of his heater. But without that electricity, he’s vulnerable. Seager demonstrated as much when he went yard on a belt-high fastball in the first inning of Game 1.

There’s no indication anything is physically wrong with Scherzer, so it may be a mere mechanical glitch that’s made his arm slot drop. If he can get that ironed out, he can get back to being his usual self in Game 5.

His usual self can tear through the Dodgers lineup. Scherzer had the highest swinging-strike rate of any qualified starter this year and the third-highest strikeout rate at 11.19 per nine innings. These are the things he can do when he’s combining his excellent fastball, slider and changeup with strong command.

And indeed, these are the things he had when he was tearing through the postseason in 2012 and 2013. He’s mostly been that same pitcher over the last three years. He just needs to remember how to do it in October.

If he can do that, he can own the biggest game of his life.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Is Max Scherzer Ready to Become MLB’s Next Elite Postseason Ace?

The term “ace” gets tossed around too liberally. There’s more to it than simply being the best pitcher on your team.

The Washington NationalsMax Scherzer, however, checks most of the ace boxes.

He’s got the gaudy strikeout totals, including an MLB-leading 267 entering play Tuesday. He’s earned the hardware—namely, a 2013 American League Cy Young Award with the Detroit Tigers. And he’s racked up the individual accomplishments, including a pair of no-hitters and a record-tying 20-strikeout game.

One thing Scherzer has never done? Taken a team on his back and carried it to World Series glory.

He’s had his share of playoff experience, and he’s logged some strong October starts. Now, after the Nats wrapped up the National League East on Saturday, Scherzer has a chance to etch his name in the alabaster of postseason lore.

The 32-year-old right-hander is having an exemplary season overall, but he’s been especially dominant in the second half, posting a 2.51 ERA in 13 starts with 103 strikeouts in 89.2 innings. He’s pitched into the seventh inning or later in each of his last seven outings and has won nine of his last 10 decisions.

“He is the epitome of a shutdown inning,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. “You give him some runs, and he knows how to close the door.”

He’s at the forefront of the NL Cy Young conversation, as USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale opined:

The question now is, can he keep it up when the lights get brightest?

Scherzer last pitched in the postseason in 2014. That year, he made a single start in the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles and surrendered seven hits and five runs in a 12-3 loss.

His strongest playoff start came in Game 2 of the 2013 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox, when he fanned 13 in seven innings and allowed just one run and two hits.

Overall, Scherzer’s playoff resume is checkered. There are gems, and there are flame-outs. His total line—a 3.73 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 62.2 innings—is solid but not transcendent.

The Nationals don’t need him to be transcendent to make a deep run. But it sure would help.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy, who is in the mix for the NL batting title, is out with a glute strain, per Janes. Stephen Strasburg, Scherzer’s running mate atop the Nats starting corps, is working his way back from an elbow injury and has yet to throw off a mound, let alone make a rehab start.

“I’d hate to see life without Daniel and life without [Strasburg],” Baker told Janes. “Those two are big horses.”

If either or both can’t go, or if they’re at less than full strength, Washington will have to ride Scherzer that much harder. Then there are the injury whispers surrounding underachieving NL MVP Bryce Harper.

Tanner Roark makes for a capable No. 2 with his 2.86 ERA in 204.1 innings. Speedy rookie Trea Turner—who is hitting .340 with a .923 OPS and 27 stolen bases in 67 games—is an offensive catalyst. Catcher Wilson Ramos has 22 homers and a .307 average. The bullpen boasts the third-best ERA in baseball at 3.40.

It keeps rotating back to Scherzer, though. As soon as the ink dried on his seven-year, $210 million deal with Washington in January 2015, he became the Guy, capital “G.”

How has Scherzer fared against other possible NL postseason contenders? Let’s take a gander:

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who wrapped up the NL West on Sunday, are locked in as the Nats’ division series foe.

L.A. hitters have made some hay against Scherzer in their careers, as you can see. He hasn’t faced the Dodgers this season, but Los Angeles is 5-1 against the Nationals in 2016 and has Clayton Kershaw back atop its rotation.

Remember, though, Kershaw has wobbled in the playoffs, where he’s 2-6 with a 4.59 ERA. If Scherzer can outduel him in Game 1 of the NLDS (assuming that’s the matchup), it could go a long way toward derailing the resilient Dodgers’ momentum.

If the Nationals survive and advance, their likeliest NLCS opponent is the Chicago Cubs. Scherzer has good lifetime numbers against the potent Cubs lineup, but he’s had split results this year.

On May 6, Chicago tagged him for seven runs in five innings in a 6-8 defeat at Wrigley Field. On June 13, Scherzer got revenge, fanning 11 in seven frames at Nationals Park as the Nats prevailed, 4-1.

We won’t speculate on potential World Series opponents, because that would be getting way far ahead of ourselves, and because the AL postseason picture remains in flux. But Scherzer has familiarity with all the Junior Circuit contenders from his days in Detroit.

In the postseason, anything can happen. It’s a small-sample cauldron where stars sometimes fade and obscure players rise. That’s the beauty of October.

If you’re a Nats fan hoping to see Scherzer do a 2014 Madison Bumgarner impression, your hopes are legitimate.

FanGraphs puts the odds that the Nats will reach the Fall Classic at 11.6 percent, compared to 16.6 percent for the Dodgers and 18.2 percent for the Cubs. Those odds rise considerably if Mad Max goes beyond Thunderdome.

The stage is set. Now, all Scherzer has to do is step on it and throw like an ace.


All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Max Scherzer Has 12 Games with 10 or More Strikeouts, the Most in MLB

Fact: Max Scherzer struck out 11 batters over eight innings in the Washington Nationals‘ 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday. It was Scherzer‘s 12th game this season with 10 or more strikeouts, the most in MLB

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Don’t Forget About Max Scherzer in NL Cy Young Race

If Max Scherzer‘s American League Cy Young Award is beginning to feel lonely, it could soon have company.

In the wasteland that is the National League Cy Young race without a fully functioning Clayton Kershaw, anyone could claim this year’s award. From Madison Bumgarner to Johnny Cueto to Noah Syndergaard to Jake Arrieta to Jose Fernandez, there’s no shortage of strong-armed dudes vying for it.

But if anyone had forgotten about Scherzer, well, it’s suddenly easy to remember him after what the Washington Nationals ace did to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday at Nationals Park. To stave off a four-game sweep, he paced the Nats to a 4-0 win with eight shutout innings in which he allowed two hits, walked nobody and struck out 10.

The finish was especially strong. Scherzer bore down and retired the final three Orioles he faced in noticeably angry fashion. Apparently, any Orioles fans upset about that have only themselves to blame.

“The O’s fans started making noise there in the eighth and it really kind of ticked me off,” he said afterward, per Ben Standig of CSN Mid-Atlantic.

The madness of this particular Max aside, we’re looking at a season that keeps getting better. Scherzer picked up another win to run his record to 14-7, lowered his ERA to 2.92 and the average against him to .191, and raised his innings to 182.0, his strikeouts to 227 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 5.16. 

This is obviously Cy Young-caliber material. But whether any of it makes Scherzer an obvious front-runner is anyone’s guess. The only time there was a front-runner for the NL Cy Young this year was when Kershaw was healthy and leading the league in everything. That was a while ago, and now the NL Cy Young race is a different strokes/different folks kind of affair.

Scherzer leads the NL in innings and strikeouts, which are important, but he doesn’t lead other categories that voters gravitate toward. Arrieta leads with 16 wins, two more than Scherzer’s 14. Kyle Hendricks leads with a 2.19 ERA, a category in which Bumgarner (2.44), Syndergaard (2.61), Arrieta (2.62), Cueto (2.86) and Fernandez (2.91) are also ahead of Scherzer. 

And keep in mind, there’s still more than a month of baseball left. Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated was right when he wrote that this race could change drastically in September. We’re not here to hand Scherzer anything now, nor to promise with 100 percent certainty that he’ll get something come November. 

What can be said now, however, is that Scherzer could be awfully tough to beat.

The veteran right-hander may not have the most wins or the best ERA among his fellow NL aces, but that’s OK. The former isn’t the deal-maker it used to be in Cy Young discussions, and the latter is a stat that doesn’t fully capture the sheer dominance of Scherzer’s 2016 season.

Those league-leading 227 strikeouts are a big reason why the .191 average against him is second behind only Arrieta (.183). There’s no ignoring the 25 home runs Scherzer has given up, but most of the contact that hitters have made against him has been quiet.

He entered Thursday with a 22.5 soft-hit percentage, second only to Hendricks (26.3) and Tanner Roark (24.1). And with a rate of 2.2 walks per nine innings, Scherzer hasn’t issued many free passes when he hasn’t been completely overwhelming hitters.

It’s times like these that nerds like me point to obscure statistics that tie everything up with a neat little bow. In this case, it’s “deserved run average.” It’s a Baseball Prospectus specialty that gets more in depth than metrics like fielding independent pitching (FIP) and expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP) to cut through the nonsense that clouds ERA and get to a pitcher’s true performance level. 

Here’s how the top of the DRA list looked among starters with at least 150 innings heading into Thursday’s action:

  1. Chris Sale: 2.70
  2. Corey Kluber: 2.88
  3. Max Scherzer: 2.91

Just two pitchers ahead of Scherzer, neither of whom is in the National League. That, folks, is how you make a guy look good.

Or, you could opt for the much simpler route to appreciating Scherzer’s dominance.

His latest outing was the 15th time all season in which he’s lasted at least seven innings and given up no more than two runs. No other National League pitcher has more than 12 such starts. His 11 starts with at least 10 strikeouts, meanwhile, are two more than anyone else has. One of those, of course, was his record-tying 20-strikeout game against the Detroit Tigers back in May.

Scherzer didn’t peak with that game. He hit a rough patch in his two starts prior to Thursday’s outing, but he still has a 1.94 ERA over his last 11 starts. Rather than slowing down, he’s streaking to the finish.

Washington’s schedule will make it easy for him to continue this. The Nationals have the NL East’s only good offense, and the only non-NL East opponents they face the rest of the way are the Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies have a scary offense, but they’re up next, and Scherzer will get to miss them.

Scherzer was an easy pick when he won the American League Cy Young as a Tiger in 2013, getting 28 of 30 first-place votes. Given the state of the race, it’s unlikely he’ll fare that well in this year’s NL Cy Young voting even if he does take it.

But make no mistake: He can win it.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Max Scherzer Replaces Stephen Strasburg on 2016 NL All-Star Roster

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer will replace teammate Stephen Strasburg on the 2016 National League All-Star roster, MLB announced on Friday.

Scherzer, 31, is 9-6 with a 3.21 ERA and 0.97 WHIP through his first 18 starts. He’s struck out 155 batters in 120.2 innings and will be making his fourth straight appearance in the Midsummer Classic.

Strasburg, 27, was considered a potential NL starter after going 11-0 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 15 starts. The game is also in Strasburg’s hometown of San Diego, so it’s a bit of a surprise that he won’t be making the trip.

But with the Cy Young Award contender due to pitch on Friday night against the New York Mets, Strasburg likely decided there wasn’t enough rest time.

Scherzer’s selection comes within hours of the Mets announcing that starter Bartolo Colon earned All-Star honors in place of Madison Bumgarner.

After struggling for the first two months—especially in regard to home runs allowed—Scherzer has been back in fine form in June and July. He went 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 41.1 innings in June. Junior Guerra of the Milwaukee Brewers out-dueled him in a 1-0 battle on Independence Day, but Scherzer still gave up just four hits over six innings.

“I think he’s an All-Star, personally,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. “Not because he’s on my team, which helps. But this guy, he can easily win 20. So don’t count him out.”

The right-handed flamethrower’s only issues this season have been with the long ball. His 21 homers allowed are tied for the second-most in Major League Baseball with Josh Tomlin, Ian Kennedy and Jered Weaver—none of whom are sniffing the All-Star Game (though Tomlin has been very good).

“I’m not going to sit here and just beat myself up over home runs,” Scherzer said, per Janes. “I’m gonna attack the zone. I know that, and I’m gonna give up some solo blasts. I’m okay with that.”

It speaks to how well Scherzer is pitching between those dingers that he’s been able to overcome them and make the roster.

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Scherzer Becomes 4th Pitcher to Strike out 20 Batters in a Game

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer enjoyed a historic outing in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the Detroit Tigers, becoming just the fourth player in major league history to strike out 20 batters in a single game, per MLB Stat of the Day.

In addition to the record-tying strikeout total, he held his former team to two runs on six hits over nine innings, with both runs coming via solo homers—one from Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez and the other from shortstop Jose Iglesias.

Six Detroit players had multiple strikeouts, with five of those (including star first baseman Miguel Cabrera) going down by way of the K three times.

Scherzer joined Roger Clemens (twice), Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson as the only players to strike out 20 batters in a contest, also breaking Bill Gullickson’s Montreal Expos/Nationals single-game franchise record of 18 strikeouts (1980), per Sportsnet Stats.

Making his effort all the more impressive, Scherzer threw just 23 balls among his 119 pitches, easily the fewest by any pitcher in a 20-strikeout game, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Although the magical outing improved his record to 4-2, the hard-throwing righty actually hasn’t quite lived up to his usual standards so far this season, owning a 4.15 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.

Granted, he also has 66 strikeouts in 52 innings, which should allay any potential concerns.

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Max Scherzer Carves His Place in MLB History with 20-K Masterpiece

Take a bow, Max Scherzer.

One season after twirling a pair of no-hitters, the Washington Nationals right-hander struck out 20 Detroit Tigers on Wednesday in a 3-2 victory, tying the all-time record for a nine-inning game and carving his place in baseball history.

Scherzer wasn’t perfect. Facing his former team for the first time since signing a megadeal with the Nationals in January 2015, he surrendered six hits and a pair of solo home runs, to Jose Iglesias in the third inning and J.D. Martinez in the ninth.

In fact, the Tigers put the tying run on base in the ninth in between Scherzer fanning Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton to tie the record.

He had a chance to stand alone at the summit of Mount K by fanning James McCann. Instead, McCann grounded out to third to end the game and seal the win.

With his masterpiece, Scherzer joins Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens (who did it twice) as the only big league pitchers to tally 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Randy Johnson also accomplished the feat, though the game went beyond nine innings, and Tom Cheney racked up 21 in 16 innings for the Washington Senators in 1962.

Perhaps most impressively, just 23 of Scherzer’s 119 pitches were balls, fewer than any of the other pitchers in the 20-whiff club, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Pounding the strike zone and making opposing hitters look foolish is nothing new for Scherzer, who won a Cy Young Award with Detroit in 2013 and has struck out 1,045 batters since the start of the 2012 season, second only to Clayton Kershaw in MLB.

Still, seeing the 31-year-old in otherworldly form had to be nice for the Nationals.

Washington is off to an excellent start, but Scherzer has been up and down. He entered Wednesday’s start with a 4.60 ERA and was tagged for seven earned runs in his last outing against the potent Chicago Cubs.

What a difference five days makes. No, the Tigers aren’t the Cubbies, but they aren’t pushovers, either. No one strikes out Cabrera three times without bringing his A-game.

When Scherzer fanned Cabrera for the third time in the ninth, he was still dishing high-90s heat, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post noted:

Scherzer’s rotation-mate, Stephen Strasburg, has grabbed headlines after getting off to a strong start and signing a seven-year, $175 million extension.

Strasburg, who’s still just 27 years old and oozing with talent, may prove to be the better pitcher going forward. 

But Scherzer just served notice he’s not ready to relinquish the No. 1 mantle quite yet. And the Nats, no doubt, will be all too happy to sit back and watch their co-aces duke it out.

Tigers fans may be bitter that their old ace outshone their new ace, former National Jordan Zimmermann, who took the hill for Detroit. And they may be tempted to place some blame at the feet of a lineup that hasn’t been as good as advertised.

As ESPN.com’s Katie Strang said, however, this one belongs to Scherzer all the way.

“The Tigers battled to the very end,” Strang correctly opined, “but were ultimately outclassed by a historic performance by one of the game’s elite pitchers.”

Just ask the man himself, who made no effort to disguise his carnal pleasure.

“Strikeouts are sexy,” Scherzer said, per Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com. “To punch out 20 is sexy.”

Chicks dig the swing and miss.

So where does Scherzer’s performance rank in the pantheon of dominant pitching performances?

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus put it ahead of Clemens’ 20-strikeout games but behind Wood’s, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck.

You could argue Wednesday’s gem wasn’t even the most dominant game of Scherzer’s career. In last season’s no-hitter against the Mets, Scherzer struck out 17. His 104 game score, a metric created by famed statistician Bill James, was the second-highest of all time, per Janes

The highest? Wood’s 20-strikeout effort, which earned a 105.

Scherzer’s game score Wednesday took a hit because of the two homers he allowed, and came in at 87, per Sporting News’ Jesse Spector.

That says as much about the stat’s shortcomings as it does about the various performances. The point is, Scherzer is making a habit out of huge moments. He’s clearly a man who wants to be remembered by history—and history is going to oblige.

Take a bow, Max Scherzer. And feel free to give us an encore while you’re at it.


All statistics current as of May 11 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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