Max Scherzer started the series finale this afternoon in Miami with a streak of five-straight outings with double-digit Ks.
He was up to six strikeouts after two scoreless in today’s matchup with the Marlins, striking out each of the first six batters he retired.
Scherzer was (4-1) in those five starts during the streak, with a 1.13 ERA, seven walks (1.58 BB/9) and 58 Ks (13.05 K/9) over that stretch, holding opposing hitters to a .132/.192/.228 in 40 innings pitched.
He’s been a lot of fun to watch, and not just for fans. His teammates, coaches, and the even the opposition have all been impressed.
“It’s very enjoyable,” Dusty Baker said when asked about watching Scherzer work after the right-hander struck out 10 in eight innings in Citi Field in his last start before this afternoon’s.
“That’s what I heard [Daniel Murphy] tell Max when we came in off the field.
“He said, ‘Hey, it’s very enjoyable to watch you pitch.’ And his determination and his grit. He was dealing.”
“I have as much fun watching him as the fans do,” Nats’ Pitching Coach Mike Maddux told MASN’s Dan Kolko this week.
“To see him get out there an foam at the mouth and just have that killer instinct and get after them,” Maddux said, “and the way he walks around the mound and postures himself the hitters know they’ve got their hands full.
“It’s all in competition, competitive nature.”
“You cannot let him get the lead... those great pitchers, they get the lead and they can chew you up.”
“He’s not afraid to pound the strike zone,” Collins said, “and you just watch him, when you watch his demeanor on the mound, when he starts walking around with that big long pace he’s got, he’s locked in.”
Maddux agreed on what’s led to Scherzer’s success over the recent stretch of starts.
“I think No. 1 he’s pitching ahead,” Maddux said. “He’s banging the zone, getting strike one, and once Max gets ahead in the count, he’s got multiple out pitches, and the hitters have to honor them. They can’t really pick one, because he’s got four, but when he’s pitching ahead, it’s all the more nasty.”
Scherzer got up 0-2 on Dee Gordon and threw a wipeout slider by the speedy Marlin for his seventh K of today’s game in the third.
Justin Bour went down swinging at a 2-2 slider down and in for K No. 8 and the third out of Scherzer’s fourth scoreless frame.
Scherzer was up to 11 of 16 first-pitch strikes after the first two outs of the fifth, and he got the final out of the frame with a 1-0 curve, completing 5.0 scoreless and hitless on 72 pitches when JT Riddle sent a groundout to second.
Giancarlo Stanton was helpless against the 2-2 slider that got him swinging for the final out of the sixth, and Scherzer’s ninth K. He was at 85 pitches at that point.
Stanton was the 14th straight Marlin to go down after Scherzer’s hit-by-pitch on Derek Dietrich in the second.
Christian Yelich swung weakly at a 1-1 slider, 1-2, spit on a fastball up high outside, 2-2, and fouled a 96 mph fastball into Jose Lobaton’s glove for the first out of the seventh, and Scherzer’s 10th K. Marcell Ozuna fouled off a 1-1 fastball, 1-2, and another heater, before sending a changeup to short for out No. 2 and Scherzer’s 16th straight out.
Justin Bour’s pop-out gave Scherzer 17-straight outs and 7.0 scoreless and hitless on a total of 98 pitches.
Derek Dietrich fell behind 0-2 in the first at bat of the eighth, and chased a changeup into the dirt for the 18th straight out and Scherzer’s 11th K. A.J. Ellis fouled off a 1-1 fastball, and a 1-2 heater, before sending a chopper back to the mound... and off the tip of Scherzer’s outstretched glove for a no-hitter-spoiling infield single.
The Marlins loaded the bases in front of Giancarlo Stanton with an error by Trea Turner and a hit-by-pitch on Dee Gordon after the single by Ellis, and a wild pitch on a high 1-2 heater allowed the tying run to score, 1-1.
Stanton lined a 2-2 slider to left field that dropped in right in front of Ryan Raburn to bring in the go-ahead run, before an out at the plate on the play ended the inning. 2-1 Fish. That’s how it ended.
• Max Scherzer’s Line: 8.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 121 P, 85 S, 10/2 GO/FO.
Baker was asked after the loss if he considered lifting Scherzer at any point in that eighth, after the no-hitter ended or after the error by Turner, or the hit-by-pitch, or wild pitch...?
“The thing about it is, it was his game,” Baker said, “and he was still throwing the ball great, and who could you bring in that was throwing better than him?
“That’s how you’ve got to consider it. I mean, he worked two and a half hours, or two hours-plus, to get in that position. It started out with a little cheap infield hit, then we had the error, and then we — these things are different if they’re hitting him around the ballpark, but they weren’t. And then he hit Dee, and then we had the wild pitch, and you know, Raburn almost came up with that ball [in left], and to throw Dee out at the plate, that was a heck of a play. So, those were the main factors, is that it was his game.”
As his pitch count was climbing though, was it hard to gauge what Scherzer had left?
“No,” Baker said, “but I mean, Max knows how to close it out and we’ve got an extra day on our rotation because of the off day tomorrow, so you keep an eye on the radar gun, he was still throwing 95-96. He was looking strong and he didn’t have any stressful innings, you know, so the thing about it is, you think about, ‘Who do you want to bring in out of the bullpen that is throwing better than Max?’ And it’s his game.”
“He had no-hit stuff tonight,” Baker continued, “and like I said, if it wasn’t for that little cheap hit, and then we made the error, he’s out of the inning and then, he’s done, and then we go to the bullpen at that point in time.”
It didn’t end the way the Nationals wanted, but Scherzer took a no-hit bid into the sixth for the eleventh time in 82 starts for Washington... it was fun while it lasted.
“It was fun to watch,” Baker said. “It was a little nerve-wracking on the bench, I mean, once they got the hit, now you’ve got to figure out how to win the ballgame.”