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The 5 best pitching performances in Nats history

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The 5 best pitching performances in Nats history

When Max Scherzer painted his 1-hit, 16-strikeout masterpiece last week in Milwaukee, the thought immediately came to mind that we might have just witnessed the best pitching performance in Nationals history. And then six days later, Scherzer perhaps topped that masterpiece with his almost-perfect-game-still-no-hitter against the Pirates.

Which leaves me now wondering what exactly is the greatest pitching performance in Nats history? There are several candidates, including several within the last nine months. But there are a few from farther back in the franchise's decade in D.C. that deserve some consideration, as well.

So let's try to rank them, 1 through 5, using both statistical and emotional evidence to put together a full comprehensive list. There's certainly room for debate with these, but here is one mere reporter's opinion...

5. JOHN PATTERSON, AUG. 4, 2005 vs. DODGERS
Final line: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 13 K, 116 pitches, 84 strikes
Bill James' Game Score: 92
Box score
Article
Comment: Back in the summer of 2005, D.C. had fallen in love again with an old friend: Baseball. The Nationals' inaugural season would've been enough for most local fans who had waited 33 long years to have a hometown ballclub of their own. But then the Nats burst out to a 50-31 record during the season's first half, holding first place in the NL East at the All-Star break and turning RFK Stadium into a magical place on a nightly basis. The rest of that summer (and fall) turned sour, with the Nats going 31-50 over the second half to finish at .500 and in last place in the division. But Patterson's performance on this sweltering August night remains one of the most memorable in club history. The talented-but-enigmatic right-hander was on a crazy role that summer, with a 1.02 ERA and 54 strikeouts over a stretch of six starts, and this was the best of them. Patterson struck out 13 Dodgers during a 4-hit shutout. He didn't walk a batter. The Nats rode that performance plus a grand slam from Brad Wilkerson to a 7-0 victory before a crowd of 35,484. And Patterson was on top of the world. "It's been an amazing year," he said. "The dream I had coming into this season was to play just like this, and it's working. ... This is what I've always believed that I could do." He didn't do it much longer, but he (and Nats fans) will always have the memories of this night.

4. STEPHEN STRASBURG, JUNE 8, 2010 vs. PIRATES
Final line:
7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 14 K, 94 pitches, 65 strikes
Bill James' Game Score:
75
Box score

Article

Comment:
Not very long ago, Stephen Strasburg's debut stood as the best performance in Nationals history, and there was no debate to be had about it. It has since been surpassed by three other games, but that doesn't diminish at all what the young right-hander did on that magical June night in 2010. Taking the mound with more hype and expectation than anybody (pitcher or position player) ever had for his big-league debut, Strasburg somehow managed to exceed it all with a performance well beyond what anybody could have imagined. He struck out 14 batters, establishing a club record that stood until one week ago, and he did so despite pitching only seven innings. He became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out at least 10 batters without walking any in his debut. And he brought so much joy to every one of the 40,315 in attendance at Nationals Park, who perhaps for the first time truly felt like their team was on a path toward something special.

3. JORDAN ZIMMERMANN, SEPT. 28, 2014 vs. MARLINS
Final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, 104 pitches, 79 strikes
Bill James' Game Score:
96
Box score

Article

Comment:
This one stood as the unquestioned best performance in club history until only one week ago. On the final day of the regular season last September, Zimmermann authored the first no-hitter in Nats history, the first no-hitter by a Washington pitcher since 1931. The right-hander was brilliant throughout, issuing only a fifth-inning walk to Justin Bour. But things got strange as the game proceeded. Because it was the final day of the season and there was nothing at stake (in the standings, at least) Matt Williams stuck with his plan to remove all of his regular position players at various points along the way. Which meant when Zimmermann took the mound for the ninth inning, only catcher Wilson Ramos remained from the starting lineup. That proved fortuitous, though, because who knows what would have happened had rookie Steven Souza Jr. not been inserted into left field at the start of the ninth. Turns out it was Souza who saved Zimmermann's no-hitter with a dramatic, diving catch of Christian Yelich's drive to deep left-center. Zimmermann's reaction — from dejected slumped shoulders to arms raised jubilation — perfectly captured a moment no one will ever forget.

2. MAX SCHERZER, JUNE 14, 2015 at BREWERS
Final line: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 16 K, 119 pitches, 86 strikes
Bill James' Game Score:
100
Box score

Article

Comment:
No, it wasn't a no-hitter, but Scherzer's start last week in Milwaukee was better than Zimmermann's no-no nine months earlier. Seriously. He struck out 16 batters, shattering Strasburg's club record. He issued one walk (in the bottom of the eighth). And the one hit he allowed was a broken-bat blooper to shallow right field by Carlos Gomez. Yelich smoked that ball off Zimmermann in the ninth inning last September, denied only by Souza's brilliant catch. Nobody in Milwaukee hit the ball hard off Scherzer. And though it's not the only measurement of pitching excellence, Scherzer's Game Score of 100 in a 9-inning start has been topped only five times in baseball history. This was the best pitching performance in Nationals history, until...

1. MAX SCHERZER, JUNE 20, 2015 vs. PIRATES
Final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 HBP, 10 K, 106 pitches, 82 strikes
Bill James' Game Score:
97
Box score

Article

Comment:
OK, so Scherzer's Game Score on Saturday actually went down to a mere 97. Like I said, that's only one way to measure a pitching performance. Let's be honest: This one had to top the previous one, because of the big, fat zero in the hit column. And because of the fact that if not for that one errant 2-2 slider to Jose Tabata with two outs in the ninth, if not for Tabata's elbow finding its way into the path of the ball, this might well have been the 24th perfect game in baseball history, the first by anybody wearing a Washington uniform or wearing another city's uniform while pitching in Washington. It was simply phenomenal. The Pirates had no chance. Really, there weren't any really close calls. Yes, Danny Espinosa made a nice play on Pedro Alvarez's grounder to the shifted right side of the infield. But there was no diving catch, no smoked line drive that somebody miraculously caught. Scherzer on Saturday was as good as you can get. And so he earns the award for Best Pitching Performance in Nationals History.

Honorable mention: Ramon Ortiz carries a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Cardinals on Sept. 4, 2006; Jordan Zimmermann throws a 2-hit, 12-strikeout shutout in San Diego on June 8, 2014; Gio Gonzalez throws a 1-hitter (a chopper over Adam LaRoche's head at first base) in New York on Sept. 9, 2013; Pedro Astacio throws a 2-hit shutout over the Braves at RFK Stadium, needing only 89 pitches, on Aug. 15, 2006.

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Nationals end disappointing season with final home series vs. Marlins

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals end disappointing season with final home series vs. Marlins

WASHINGTON -- The disappointing Washington Nationals close out their home schedule with a three-game series against the Miami Marlins beginning Monday night (7:05 p.m. ET).

After dropping three of four to the fourth-place New York Mets over the weekend, third-place Washington (77-77) needs to go 4-2 this weekend to cap a seventh straight winning season.

Miami right-hander Sandy Alcantara (2-1, 2.35) and right-hander Stephen Strasburg (9-7, 3.83) square off in a rematch of a Sept. 18 pairing won by Strasburg and Washington, 4-2. Strasburg allowed two runs on five hits over six innings, while striking out 11 and walking two.

Over his last five starts, Strasburg is 3-0 with a 2.64 ERA and 38 strikeouts.

"He's been really good," Nationals manager Dave Martinez told The Washington Post. "He's pitching now. He's mixing all of his pitches in and attacking the strike zone."

Strasburg is 17-7 with a 3.04 ERA in 30 career starts against Miami.

Alcantara lasted just four innings against Washington, allowing three earned runs on six hits and six walks in absorbing his first loss of the season.

"When we talk about young guys, this is what we see," Marlins manager Don Mattingly told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "We see good and then we see some ones that are not as good. Today, the command didn't seem to be there. A lot of misses, counts get bad and a lot of pitches in a short period of time.

"It's something he'll be able to learn from and you've got to continue to work and be consistent with what you do and that's what separates the guys who are going to be really good and the guys who are going to be OK."

Miami finished the home portion of its schedule with a 6-0 win over the Reds Sunday, taking three of four in the weekend series. At 62-93 with one game unlikely to be made up, the Marlins should avoid 100 losses but also won't approach their 77 wins of a year ago.

"No matter what, we knew what we were kind of embarking on this year, with a lot of the changes," Mattingly told mlb.com. "The new direction of the club, under the new ownership. You understand all that. Still, the losses add up, and those are hard to deal with.

"But I've been proud of the guys. I've felt they've continued to play hard and continued to give you the effort, and that's not easy to do when you're taking that many losses on the chin."

Washington is also playing out the string after being eliminated from postseason contention on Saturday. They lost 8-6 to the Mets in Sunday's finale.

Twenty-five-year-old rookie Erick Fedde, the team's first-round pick in the 2014 draft, is among those bidding for a 2019 starting rotation spot. Against the Mets Sunday, he lasted only 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs in a no-decision.

In nine starts this season, Fedde has yet to go beyond six innings.

"There are times when I'm like: 'I can pitch at this level, I can be successful and I think I can dominate,'" he told MASN.com. "And then there are times that are like: 'What are you doing out there?' But I think that comes with the learning curve, and I just need to make sure that isn't a very long learning curve."

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Conforto’s bases-loaded triple brought Mets to 8-6 over Nationals

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USA Today

Conforto’s bases-loaded triple brought Mets to 8-6 over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Michael Conforto hit a go-ahead, bases-loaded triple, rookie Jeff McNeil matched a career high with four hits and the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 8-6 on a slow and soggy Sunday afternoon.

The first pitch was delayed 25 minutes, and rain continued during the game, which lasted 4 hours, 14 minutes. Washington's grounds crew tended to the infield between innings throughout the day.

The Mets finished their road slate at 40-41, better than their 33-42 mark at home, where they have six games left.

The Nationals, who fell to .500 (78-78), led 3-1 before New York rallied in the fourth. Wander Suero (3-1) entered with one out and two on and issued a walk before McNeil singled in a run.

Conforto then poked a shot to left-center past a diving Michael A. Taylor to clear the bases and make it 5-3. Suero surrendered two more runs in the fifth when Kevin Plawecki delivered an RBI double and scored on Amed Rosario's infield single.

Drew Gagnon (2-1) pitched two scoreless innings for the Mets, who took three of four from the Nationals in the teams' final series of the season. Anthony Swarzak recorded the final five outs for his fourth save in five tries.

New York starter Steven Matz allowed three runs in three innings. Washington's Erick Fedde surrendered three runs in 3 1/3 innings.

McNeil improved his batting average to .328 in 195 at-bats since his big league debut on July 24.

Rookie Victor Robles homered, tripled and drove in three for Washington.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mets: Manager Mickey Callaway said the team still plans to activate 3B David Wright from the disabled list before Tuesday's game against Atlanta. Wright, who has not played for the Mets since May 2016 because of neck, back and shoulder injuries, is scheduled to start Saturday against Miami in what will likely be his final appearance in the big leagues. However, he could also make an earlier appearance. "I wouldn't mind getting him in there and getting him a pinch-hit at bat when it makes sense in the Braves series," Callaway said.

RECORD SWIPE

Washington SS Trea Turner stole second base in the third to set the Nationals' career record with 123. The previous steals leader since the club moved to Washington in 2005 was Ian Desmond's 122 from 2009 to 2015. Turner's 42 steals this season lead the majors.

UP NEXT

Mets: New York has Monday off. RHP Noah Syndergaard (12-4, 3.36 ERA) is scheduled to start Tuesday against Atlanta.

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (9-7, 3.83 ERA), who is 17-7 with a 3.04 ERA in 30 career starts against Miami, gets the nod as Washington opens its final home series of the season Monday against the Marlins.

 

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