Max Scherzer’s first of 11 strikeouts on Monday was his 250th of the season, giving him at least 250 in five straight campaigns. It moved the Washington Nationals’ 34-year-old ace ahead of Ferguson Jenkins (Chicago Cubs, 1968-1971) and Pedro Martinez (Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox, 1997-2000) who were tied for second on the list with four consecutive 250 strikeout seasons each.
Now Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young award winner, trails only the Big Unit, Randy Johnson, (Seattle Mariners/Houston Astros/Arizona Diamondbacks, 1997-2002) who got to 250 Ks in six straight seasons, for the most consecutive 250 K campaigns in MLB history.
Facing the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time in 2018, Scherzer gave up two runs in the top of the first on Monday, surrendering a one-out single by Yairo Munoz and a walk to former Nationals’ first baseman Matt Adams before his first balk of the season moved both of them into scoring position in front of Paul DeJong, whose line drive single to left on a 1-0 slider up in the zone made it a 2-0 game in the opening frame.
Scherzer retired 18 of 19 batters after a Harrison Bader single started the second, but the one batter he didn’t set down, Munoz, hit a solo home run to right on an 0-2 fastball from the Nats’ starter in the first at bat of the sixth, 3-1.
Scherzer struck out 11 of the 26 batters he faced overall, walked just one, and left the game with the Nationals still behind, but he received no decision in the end, after the Nats rallied in the ninth and walked off in the 10th.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 1 HR, 104 P, 73 S, 3/5 GO/FO.
This is the 79th 10+ strikeout game of Max Scherzer's career.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 3, 2018
It's his 15th of 2018. pic.twitter.com/OZ3n91AlzM
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez sent Scherzer back out for the seventh with the Nationals still down, 3-1, in spite of the fact that the right-hander had already thrown 95 pitches, and the starter needed just nine to get through a quick seventh, after which he said he had more if needed.
“We talked to him and he looked good, he really did,” Martinez said when asked if he’d had any concerns about sending Scherzer out for the seventh, “so I told him, I said, ‘Hey, we get two quick outs you go ahead and hit and you go back out for the seventh,’ and honestly we talked a little bit more about the eighth. If we tied the game, you know, he can go out for the eighth, but I didn’t want to do that when we were behind.”
Scherzer told reporters after the game that with the off days he’s had recently, he’s feeling strong and had more in the tank.
“I’ve gotten I think two off days over the last three turns,” Scherzer explained, “because my arm was kind of feeling it in that stretch there for like July and August, I didn’t get many off days, but I’ve gotten a couple off days, and so my arm feels a lot better to the point where if we had tied that game back up I think in the seventh, that I was actually going to go back out for the eighth.
“I had 120 pitches in the tank today. As long as I get my off days that really regenerates my arm, keeps everything feeling good and I’m healthy, I feel good.”
Summing up his outing, Scherzer said he started slow but settled in and got comfortable.
“Started working ahead in the count better. Started getting in a rhythm. It was hot out there, but found a way to get in a groove, get in a rhythm and just started executing pitches. The mix on — hadn’t worked with [Pedro Severino] in a while, but picked right up, right where we left off, had a good mix, was throwing backwards, was throwing heaters when we wanted to, so there was a lot of good out of today, a few mistakes, you make them but you’re not okay with them, but overall pretty good.”
Martinez was asked what he thought of Scherzer reaching the 250 K mark for the fifth year in a row.
“He’s really good,” the manager said, matter of factly.
“He’s the best. I’ve played with some guys that are really good, he’s one of the best right-handed starting pitchers I’ve seen, and like I said, his work ethic is beyond what I’ve ever seen and that’s daily. It’s not just every fifth day he goes out, tomorrow he’s got a game plan for tomorrow and all the way through his next start. I’m proud of him. Well-deserved. He goes out there and he does his thing.”