Mad Max was perfect for 8.2 innings Saturday before plunking Jose Tabata with two outs — and two strikes — but managed to nab the second no-hitter in Nationals history en route to an easy 6-0 win at home. The 30-year old ace, acquired in the off-season via free agency from Detroit, needed only 106 pitches and was flawless with his command, throwing 82 of those pitches for strikes at National Park. Max lowered his already microscopic ERA to 1.76 with the effort.
With two outs and an already-rowdy crowd of 41,104 on hand standing, Scherzer looked poised to end the game with his 11th strikeout, but grazed Tabata’s elbow with a 2-2 pitch, ending his quest for perfection. He then retired Josh Harrison on a fly ball to the warning track to claim only the second no-hitter in Nationals history, and the second this season. He also went 1-2 at the plate, raising his average (.242) and jumping two-hundredths of a point over Gerrit Cole to regain the ERA lead.
During his last outing against Milwaukee, he nearly pitched to perfection but settled for a one-hit shutout and 16 strikeouts. Thanks to crafty play by Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper’s 23rd long ball, Scherzer (8-5) needed no further run support, although the Nationals offense provided 5 additional runs of support. He became only the fifth pitcher ever — and second since the 1944 season — to pitch two consecutive one hit or less ball games. Harper finished 2-4 with 2 RBIs while Tyler Moore chipped in 2 RBIs in a 1-4 effort.
Proving that every dime of his record $210 million contract has been an ingenious investment was fans’ initial concern heading into regular season play, but with 123 strikeouts and stellar control of his fastball, Max should have little trouble claiming the National League strikeout title and possibly starting the All-Star Game.
Max Scherzer retired the first 26 batters on lazy fly balls, strikeouts, and grounders right to positional players, pitching an efficient game despite a cloudy game time temperature of 91 degrees. Third-baseman Escobar was scratched before the game due to illness. The Seattle Mariners’ King Felix Hernandez was the last MLB pitcher to reach perfection, accomplishing the feat in 2012; the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann ended the 2014 regular season with Washington’s last no-hitter. Just two weeks removed from Chris Heston’s hitless gem, perhaps there’s a shift in pitching paradigms happening around the league.
The two teams will square off in the rubber match of their three-game series Sunday, with Charlie Morton facing Gio Gonzalez.
ESPN and the Associated Press contributed to this breaking story.
[Photo by Rob Carr / Getty Images Sport]