We are counting down the 10 biggest moments of 2015 for the Nationals as we approach New Year's Day. In the third installment, we look back at Max Scherzer's second no-hitter of the season, when he shut down the New York Mets...
By the time the Nationals faced the Mets at Citi Field in the final series of the 2015 regular season, they had already come to terms with the disappointment of a year defined by what could have been. It had been over a week since they were officially eliminated from the playoffs and there was little left to play for. The Mets were coasting after locking up the division with dreams of a World Series run on their mind, while the Nats were playing out the string with the offseason on the horizon.
When Max Scherzer took the mound on Oct. 3, all that was left to play for was pride. The season would end the following day and Scherzer had already done enough to certify his first year in Washington as a success. The guy had already thrown a no-hitter, the first of his career and the second in Nationals history. He had already made the All-Star team and emerged as the leader of one of the most talented pitching staffs in baseball.
Sometimes special moments in baseball come at the most random of times, when you least expect it. That was the case for Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter in 2014 and that was certainly the case for Scherzer in his final outing of 2015.
With a cast around him that resembled a spring training lineup - including rookies Trea Turner, Michael Taylor, Clint Robinson and Wilmer Difo - Scherzer dominated the Mets for his second no-hitter of 2015. He became just the fifth player in MLB history to have two no-hitters in one regular season and capped off arguably the best year ever for a Nats pitcher.
Amazingly enough, through the first two innings that day, Scherzer was perhaps overshadowed by his counterpart, Matt Harvey, who came out on fire by striking out five of the first six batters he faced. But Scherzer was methodical as he dissected the Mets lineup, keeping his pitch count down early before gaining strength later on.
Through 5 2/3 innings, Scherzer had eight strikeouts. He hadn't allowed a hit, but had just seen his first batter reach base on a Yunel Escobar error. The chance at history was there, but no one could have predicted the tear Scherzer would go on next.
Scherzer struck out the next nine batters he faced, beginning with the final out of the sixth inning and finishing with two outs in the ninth. That left Curtis Granderson, who popped out to third base for the final out.
Scherzer's nine consecutive strikeouts set a Nationals record and fell just one short of Tom Seaver's all-time mark. He finished with 17 total strikeouts which is also a Nats' team record and tied for the most ever in a no-hitter (Nolan Ryan, 1973). Only 12 pitchers have ever reached 17 strikeouts or more in a single game without issuing a walk.
Based on Bill James' game score, Scherzer's no-hitter against the Mets was the second-greatest pitching performance of all time at 104, trailing only Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout gem of 1998 which recorded a 105. He became the first pitcher in MLB history to have three nine-inning games in one season with a game score of 97 or higher.
Scherzer's second no-hitter didn't make up for the Nationals' missing the playoffs or losing their crown as NL East champions. It didn't make the team's 2015 season as a whole a success. But it did provide a positive moment for both the team and its fans to close out a year that most would like to forget. Despite the circumstances, Scherzer's second no-no will go down as one of the greatest games ever pitched and one of the best days in Nationals history.
More from the countdown: