Max Scherzer ended his 2015 campaign on about as positive a note as possible, tossing his second no-hitter of the season last Saturday night in Citi Field. Washington's 31-year-old right-hander struck out 17 batters on 109 pitches and did his part to help hurt the Nationals' NL East rivals from New York, who lost out on home field advantage in their NLDS matchup with the LA Dodgers when they dropped two of three to the Nats in the season-ending three-game set.
Scherzer told reporters that night that he took no joy or particular satisfaction in hurting the Mets' postseason chances, however, or in beating the NL East division winners.
"I get they won the division, they're trying to get home-field advantage, they're trying to give you everything they've got," Scherzer said.
"I understand what's at stake. But as a major league baseball player it doesn't matter if you're in it or out of it, you have to give your 'A' effort no matter what. And tonight I thought as a team we did that."
Now-former Nats' skipper Matt Williams, who was relieved of his duties on the Nationals' bench two days later, said on Saturday he was happy to just witness what Scherzer accomplished.
"I'm proud to be a part of it," Williams told reporters. "Proud to be on the team that was able to accomplish that. Max is the ultimate competitor. He's shown to us and everybody else what he can do and it's pretty special."
Williams was particularly proud, he explained, of the way the Nationals finished out a disappointing campaign.
"They love to play the game," he said. "They don't quit. Regardless of situation. Lot of our main guys out of the lineup in the second game tonight, but we got enough offensively, certainly Max was phenomenal."
Scherzer, whose 17 strikeouts were the most in a no-hitter since Nolan Ryan in 1973, tying the MLB record for Ks in a no-hitter, was asked if he was capable of more?
"I don't look at it in terms of that," he said. "Remember, to throw a no-hitter, it takes luck. I'll be the first one to say it, but at the same time, if you want to be a dominant pitcher you look at what you can control.
"Tonight when you're able to go out there and punch guys out and not walk anybody, that's what you have control over."
Scherzer finished the first year of his 7-year/$210M deal (14-12) with a 2.79 ERA, a 2.77 FIP, 34 walks (1.34 BB/9), 276 Ks (10.86 K/9) and two no-hitters in 33 starts and 228 ⅔ innings, but doing so on a second-place team that missed out on the postseason left the right-hander less than satisfied.
"It's been a disappointing season for our team, there's no doubt about that and that's why this is bittersweet," Scherzer said.
"We wish we were playing longer in October but we're not."
"From a season standpoint, we were able to accomplish some good things together but it wasn't good enough."
So what can he personally improve on for next season?
"You always go back, when you don't accomplish your goals, you always reflect on how you can be better and there's ways I can be a better pitcher," Scherzer explained
"I do think I was a better pitcher in 2015 than I was in '14. I feel like I'm able to do more things with the baseball and sequence guys different and I just feel like all my pitches are better, but I still have room for improvement. I gave up a bunch of home runs there in the second-half and that's something I've got to improve upon in 2016. So I definitely have some things to work on myself and that's what's exciting about baseball. You're always getting better. You're always finding new ways to do stuff and that's what's exciting for next year."