First the stage needs to be set. In what is sort of an ironic twist, Max Scherzer starts for the Nationals he used to be a Detroit Tiger. Jordan Zimmermann starts for the Tigers and he used to be a Nat. Two pitchers who both had no hitters as Nats. Zimmermann came into the game 5-1. Scherzer 3-2.
There were a couple of very nice moments with Zimmermann. During announcement of the starting line up of the Tigers, when Zimmermann's name was called there was applause. But the really great moment was when he came up to bat in the third inning. There was a long round of applause. People began to stand and clap. The home plate umpire called time for no other reason then to let the applause continue. And continue it did. Zimmermann tipped his helmet to the crowd and there was a roar of approval. A very classy moment by Nats fans for a beloved former player.
Then the game got going.
From the Post:
The game began as a much-anticipated matchup of familiar aces facing their former teams as Scherzer, a former Tiger, battled former National Jordan Zimmermann. It quickly evolved into one of the more brilliant pitching performances in Nationals history, Scherzer’s most impressive outing of the season, a performance in which he shook off a seven-run battering in his last start to look as dominant as he has since his no-hitter last September.Scherzer was certainly in the zone. Watching coverage on his performance on TV after I got home, I learned that 8 times he struck guys out with just three, yes three pitches. It was amazing to watch him. It was amazing to watch his routines of pitching. Scherzer has a tendency to walk around the mound in a circle between batters especially if he's struck one out. As the game progresses, the circle becomes larger and larger. He also gets more and more pumped up.
“That’s incredible stuff,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “That’s such focus and competitiveness and stuff and heart. Every adjective you can imagine. You couldn’t have gotten him off that mound with a crane.”
Scherzer said he began his outing missing spots, but missing high with his fastball. Stephen Strasburg had told him he had success throwing the powerful Tigers lineup high fastballs like those, so Scherzer kept that in the back of his mind as he progressed through the lineup.
Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was on the other side of Scherzer brilliance with the New York Mets last September, said when he saw the Tigers begin swinging and missing at fastballs with late life, he figured Scherzer may be on to something.
Going into the 9th inning with 18 strike outs. That tied as the most number of strike outs by a Nat. Then this:
J.D. Martinez homered on the first pitch of the inning. Manager Dusty Baker stuck with Scherzer. Up came Cabrera. Down he went, swinging through a 98-mph fastball, the hardest pitch Scherzer threw all night. With it, he set a franchise record, 19 strikeouts.It was ironic on the final out that there was a groan from the fans at Nats Park. Everyone wanted strike out number 21. It was not to be.
Then came Victor Martinez, the lone holdout against Scherzer’s strikeouts. He singled to left. Baker stuck with Scherzer, at 114 pitches, to face Upton. He struck him out. Twenty. The fifth major league pitcher to strike out so many (Tom Cheney of the Washington Senators struck out 21 in an extra-inning game in 1962, and Randy Johnson had 20 in 2001 in a 10-inning game). Then McCann grounded out to end it, one short of a major league record.“The win was the most important thing tonight, especially to get a complete game,” Scherzer said. “That’s an accomplishment. The strikeouts are sexy, and that just makes it special, and the 20 really puts a stamp on it.”
It was a masterful performance. An incredible performance. A historical performance something that's been done only four other times.
Congratulations to Max Scherzer for another unforgettable performance.
But I guess from now on we need to call him MaXX Scherzer!