Max Scherzer followed up on his shortest outing of the season (5 IP vs the Braves in Atlanta) with his longest start of the 2017 campaign to that point (8 2⁄3 IP vs the San Diego Padres) last time out before Wednesday night.
Washington’s defending NL Cy Young award winner held the Padres to one run on three hits, walking one batter, and striking out a season-high 13 in a 108-pitch effort in a 5-3 win in D.C. last week, in which he fell one out short of a complete game.
He got all the way through his start tonight tonight.
Scherzer took the mound in AT&T Park, in the series finale with San Francisco, with a 3-0 lead over the Giants, courtesy of Ryan Zimmerman, who took a first-pitch curve from Matt Cain out to left for a three-run blast (his 15th) in the top of the first inning.
Scherzer retired the first ten Giants’ batters he faced, striking out four before Eduardo Nunez snuck a grounder under a diving Trea Turner at short for the first hit off of the Nationals’ starter.
Nunez scored on a Buster Posey fly to left that Jayson Werth lost in the twilight, 3-1.
Scherzer was up to 74 pitches with just that one run allowed after he worked around a two-out double in a seven-pitch sixth, and 84 pitches after he added two Ks (for nine total) in a 10-pitch bottom of the seventh.
Pinch hitter Kelby Tomlinson singled with one down in the Giants’ eighth, on Scherzer’s 88th pitch of the game, but his 89th got a grounder to second out of Denard Span that started an inning-ending 4-6-3.
Scherzer came back out for the ninth inning and struck Nunez out for strikeout No. 10, reaching double digits in Ks for the fifth time this season. Brandon Belt’s fly to left fell into Michael A. Taylor’s glove for out No. 2, and he set Buster Posey down for his 11th strikeout of the night, and 100th K of the season on his 100th pitch of the night.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 9.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 Ks, 100 P, 79 S, 4/4 GO/FO.
It was his first complete game since his 20-strikeout start against the Detroit Tigers in D.C. last May and the seventh complete game of his 10-year career.
Dusty Baker has managed some great pitchers and played with some more, but he said he continues to be impressed by Scherzer, who ranks among the best.
“He’s definitely up there,” Baker told reporters after the Nationals swept the three-game set in AT&T, “and the way he can feel it and the way he can close out a game, that’s the key. He was almost disappointed that they got a hit, when they got that first hit. He had his slider working, he had his sinker, his up-and-away fastball, I mean, he had everything working which is evident when you throw 100 pitches in nine innings, he had everything working. If we hadn’t lost that fly ball in the sky — that’s a tough sky out there at that time of night — he’d have probably shut them out, but we’ll take it.”
Scherzer’s efficiency was particularly impressive.
“He was getting strike one and plus they’ve got guys over there that swing a lot, you know, cause he got quite a few first-pitch outs and when that happens you have short innings, but when a guy is dealing like that, if you take a pitch it’s a strike and if you swing at it, then you’re probably out, and he was throwing quality strikes,” Baker said.
“There was a lot of first-pitch contact,” Scherzer told MASN’s Dan Kolko after the game.
“They made a lot of first-pitch outs, so that’s what allowed me to get deep into the game.”
Asked what was working, Scherzer, like Baker, said pretty much everything.
“Just got in sync with Wieters early, we had a 3-0 lead, I just feel mechanically great out there,” Scherzer explained, “so I can just locate the fastball to both sides of the plate, and with the scouting reports and everything, Wieters back there, he’s calling a great game for me, we’re just in sync.”
With starters like Scherzer on the mound, Baker said, “... if you don’t get them early and you let them get into the middle innings, then they start smelling it. And you can just sort of tell, ‘Oh boy, we’re in trouble,’ just like they can probably tell over there that they were in trouble.”