There was no letdown at the end of the outing this time.
Max Scherzer, granted a 5-0 lead, just charged ahead. He threw six innings, allowed a run, and would have remained to start the seventh if the game was closer. He struck out 11, walked none. The Nationals won Friday night in Boston, 10-2.
It was an easy night. A rare thing these days. The Nationals are a plodding 12-17 after the win. Though, Scherzer looked like a pitcher who found the sharper side of his weapons. He said he raised his hands and that allowed him to square his shoulders. What followed was a crisper fastball higher in the zone, a foundational pitch that makes everything else all the more difficult for opponents to deal with.
The Red Sox has significant difficulty against him Friday night. In turn, Scherzer was able to move toward more eye-popping historical notes.
First, the outing was the 26th time in his career he has struck out at least 10 batters and walked none. Only Curt Schilling (27) and Randy Johnson (37) have done it more. Scherzer is more than 1,800 innings behind Johnson and more than 900 innings behind Schilling.
It was also his 97th overall game with at least 10 strikeouts, which ties Sandy Koufax. Scherzer has thrown just three innings more than the legendary left-hander from the 1950s and 1960s.
“I mean, I’m flattered,” Scherzer said. “I didn’t go into [Friday] even thinking about that, so when you mention that, I just put in a lot of hard work over the years. The fact you can even mention me in the same breath as him is an honor -- for what he was able to accomplish. It’s pretty cool you can say that.”
Scherzer typically swats away questions about comparisons or accomplishments. Being asked about Koufax made him smile. And, he should be able to do something next year Koufax did not: reach 3,000 strikeouts. He has 2,747 now. Anything close to a full season in 2021 should easily push Scherzer past what is becoming a more and more difficult mark to reach.
Justin Verlander surpassed it last season. He’s the 18th pitcher to do so. Scherzer is second to him among active pitchers. Zach Greinke is third at 2,651 strikeouts. Cole Hamels (2,558) is fourth, Bartolo Colon (2,535) is fifth. Unlike Scherzer, all three have seen tremendous declines in their strikeout rates.
The lone active pitcher other than Scherzer who may have a good shot at 3,000? Stephen Strasburg. He’s 31 years old, has 1,697 and six more years on his contract.
For now, Scherzer is just pleased the struggling Nationals picked up a win. The rest of this will all come to a head after he retires and goes to Cooperstown.