On Wednesday night against the Tigers, Nationals ace Max Scherzer reminded us that he remains one of the best pitchers in the world. Against his former team (WAS 3, DET 2), he worked a complete game, allowed only one run, and struck out 20 batters.
Scherzer becomes just the fifth pitcher ever to strike out 20 or more batters in a game and just the fourth to do it in nine innings or fewer. The record of 21 strikeouts in a game belongs to Tom Cheney of the Senators in 1962. However, Cheney achieved his mark over the course of a 16-inning complete game. The nine-inning record of 20 is shared by Roger Clemens (Red Sox, 1986 and Red Sox, 1996), Kerry Wood (Cubs, 1998), Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks, 2001), and now Scherzer.
Scherzer entered the top of the ninth with a pitch count of more than 100 and with the game still hanging in the balance. He started off the frame by hanging a slider to J.D. Martinez, which he hit for a long home run to left-center. With the lead down to a single run, Dusty Baker didn’t stir in the Washington dugout. Scherzer struck out Miguel Cabrera for his 19th of the night but then allowed an opposite-field single to Victor Martinez. At that point, Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon began warming up in the bullpen. Scherzer rebounded to strike out Justin Upton for his 20th of the night, and then James McCann grounded into a 5-4 fielder’s choice to end it.
Here’s the 20th strikeout in action, as well as Nationals fans’ appreciative reaction:
In the end, Scherzer wound up with, as mentioned, 20 strikeouts against no walks, and he also allowed two earned on six hits. Of his 119 pitches, a remarkable 96 went for strikes.
It was a welcome turn of events for Scherzer, who entered his Wednesday start with a 2016 ERA of 4.60 across seven starts. His K/BB ratio of 3.07 was also his worst such mark since 2010. On Wednesday night, he found himself in historic fashion.
Max Scherzer had a night to remember against his old team on Wednesday. (USATSI)