Max Scherzer tossed eight scoreless, striking out 12 in his last start before Tuesday night’s, on the road in Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Scherzer extended an unbeaten streak to ten-straight starts that night, over which the 33-year-old right-hander was (8-0), with the Nationals 9-1 in his starts, in which he put up a 1.97 ERA, 16 walks, 103 Ks, and a .157/.221/.298 line against in 68 2⁄3 IP.
“He had a really good fastball tonight,” Davey Martinez said when asked what was working for Scherzer against the Orioles. “I should say a great fastball, 96-97, it was over the plate, and the slider was really, really sharp.”
Scherzer talked after the outing against the O’s about a mechanical adjustment he made that had him feeling good on the mound.
“Changed my positioning on my hands, took my hands a little bit lower and away from my face a little bit more and I felt like that put me on line,” he explained, “and I was really able to work the glove-side fastball tonight, and I felt like that really allowed me to get strikes, work ahead in the count, and let [Pedro Severino] sequence guys the way he wanted.”
List of @MLB players known to have recorded at least TWO career immaculate innings:— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 6, 2018
Lefty Grove (HoF)
Sandy Koufax (HoF)
Nolan Ryan (HoF)
Randy Johnson (HoF)
Max Scherzer (Active) pic.twitter.com/q4iaTcNpnm
Back in Washington, D.C. tonight, Scherzer was sharp from the start, striking out two in the first, two in the second, and two more in the fifth, for six Ks total over five scoreless innings, which he completed on just 55 pitches.
Scherzer tossed an immaculate inning in the sixth, striking out the side on nine pitches for nine Ks total on the night. It was the second immaculate inning in the last two seasons for the back-to-back Cy Young award-winner.
He picked up his 10th K in a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh, reaching double digits in Ks for the 9th time in 13 starts this season and the 73rd time in his career.
Scherzer’s shutout bid ended in the eighth, when he gave up three hits and two runs, but he picked up three more Ks for 13 total on 99 pitches, 81 of them strikes, which is ... ridiculous.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 13 Ks, 99 P, 81 S, 5/1 GO/FO.
“It’s hard to compare him to anybody, really,” Martinez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the Nationals’ 4-2 win.
“I’m around him every day. From the other side, you see him and you say: ‘Wow, every fifth day, he’s really good.’ But to see him every day, he’s the best. He really is.”
Kevin Cash, the Rays’ skipper, hadn’t seen Scherzer in person in a while, and he came away impressed.
“We probably don’t have the appreciation for him now that he’s been in the National League for a couple years now, but he’s really, really good,” Cash said.
“The strike throwing probably amazes me as much as anything,” he continued, “because there’s no secret, you know he’s coming right after you, he’s throwing the ball over the plate, it’s kind of, ‘Here it is, hit it.’ But that just speaks to how quality his stuff is.”
“I looked up at one time, he had 86 pitches, 70 strikes, it’s absurd. Guys just don’t do that,” Cash added. “There’s a lot of good pitchers in this league, but for a guy to just sit there and pound the strike zone the way he did and not give up hard hits, it’s really telling about how special of a pitcher he is.”
“When you go out there and control the count like that, and consistently put them behind the eight-ball of being 0-1, you’re dictating the action,” Scherzer explained, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.
“It gives you so many more chances to mix and match and throw the pitch you want.”
In a post game interview with MASN’s Johnny Holliday and Ray Knight, the Nationals’ ace said he had everything working on the mound now that he straightened out his mechanics.
“Mechanically, I feel great,” Scherzer said.
“Going into that Baltimore start, that’s when I took my hands a little bit lower and away from my face, so that when I came back to my set position, my balance point, my hands are just a touch away from my face a little bit more, and that puts me right on line with all my pitches, and when I can get on line and get on top of the ball and behind it, that’s when everything plays at its best.”
“Right now I’m starting to get into midseason form where I really feel good mechanically to where, all right, now it’s time to really dial in on execution.
“Tonight, when you don’t walk anybody you always put yourself in the position to avoid big innings and ran into a little trouble there in the eighth, but other than that, when you can continue the counts, you do good things, and tonight, saw 25 of 28 first-pitch strikes, that’s controlling the counts, controlling the game and making sure that you’re dictating the action.”