Since Max Scherzer signed his free agent deal with the Nationals two offseasons ago, the odds of a fan attending one of his starts and seeing something historic have been exceptionally good.
Scherzer has made 41 starts with the Nationals. Two of them have been no-hitters. One was a 16-strikeout, one-hit gem last July in Milwaukee, an outing that earned him the 7th-highest game score of all-time for a nine-inning performance.
And on Wednesday, Scherzer did something even more rare, he pitched a game that stands out far above those in its place in baseball history. Facing his former Detroit Tigers teammates, Scherzer tied an MLB record by becoming just the fifth pitcher ever to strike out 20 batters or more in a game and just the third to do so in a nine-inning outing.
That's all in a span of 41 starts that Scherzer has accomplished four of the best performances in baseball history. In other words, just under 10 percent of his games with the Nats have been of the 'tell your grandkids you were there' variety.
But back to Wednesday. Only five pitchers have done what Scherzer accomplished. For a comparison, only 23 perfect games have been thrown in MLB history. Only 16 times has a player hit four homers in one game.
What Scherzer did was, well, pretty sexy. At least that's the way he described it.
"Strikeouts are sexy. And to be able to punch out 20, it's sexy," he said. "Twenty is just an unbelievable number. There's something about 20 in the game. Twenty strikeouts, 20 wins. Those are huge numbers to be able to go out there tonight and be able to accomplish one of those. That's a huge feat."
Scherzer threw 96 strikes out of 119 total pitches. He walked nobody. The Tigers swung and missed 33 times.
It was a masterpiece for Scherzer and it just so happened to come against his former team.
"Tonight was an emotional game," Scherzer said. "Facing a former team and all those guys I have so much respect for and how they play the game and how they compete. I really think the world how they go out there and play the game, and so to have a game like this against that caliber of hitters on their side, that really puts a feather in my cap because I really respect and really admire how they go about the game."
Scherzer, who gave up seven runs in his previous outing against the Cubs, admitted that facing the Tigers gave him a little extra motivation.
"Especially how I pitched in Chicago, I almost needed the Tigers to come and almost get me amped up to get going. To be going on full cylinders and put something extra on the line. With those guys, the past couple days, they've had their fun. We've been talking [trash] back and forth," he said.
The Tigers present several challenges. For one, they have a bear-sized monster named Miguel Cabrera in the heart of their lineup. Cabrera is a two-time MVP whom Scherzer considers the "best hitter on Earth." He's an all-time great and Scherzer struck him out three times.
Behind Cabrera in the Tigers' lineup is Victor Martinez, a five-time All-Star with a lifetime average over .300. And behind Martinez is Justin Upton, a two-time Silver Slugger and former No. 1 overall pick.
Scherzer faced all three of those guys in the ninth inning, with Upton whiffing on an 85 mile per hour slider for strikeout No. 20.
"Okay, this is a one run ball game and now I have to go through the heart of their order," Scherzer said when describing his thoughts entering the ninth inning.
"I have to face Miggy, Victor and J-Up. Those are tremendous hitters and this is for real. I got to give everything I got to be able to get the win, I know the record was in reach, but I was thinking I have to really dig down deep to get these guys."
Scherzer also got Cabrera to go down swinging in the ninth for strikeout No. 19. That was on a 98 mile per hour fastball.
"That's the equivalent of staring down the barrel of a gun," Scherzer said. "To be able to face Miguel Cabrera, throw him three fastballs in a 1-2 count. I've seen him before make adjustments in that type of situation… you have to have ultimate belief in yourself and I've seen him hit pitches out like that in that situation."
"He's the best hitter in the game," Scherzer continued. "To be able to do it against him I mean that puts a smile on my face. He literally is the best hitter in the game and the fact that I did it, it's awesome."
Scherzer didn't just strike out 20 batters and join one of the most exclusive groups in baseball, he did it the hard way. And in doing so, he somehow topped himself and one-upped all that he has already accomplished as a member of the Nationals.
What's next? Better yet, what could he possibly to do top this one? It won't be easy, but the odds suggest you shouldn't bet against him.