When the Nationals signed Max Scherzer to a record $210 million contract this past offseason, they hoped his best was yet to come. It's only been 13 starts, but so far that's in some ways been the case.
Scherzer continued his impressive 2015 season with the best start of his eight-year MLB career on Sunday; a one-hit, 16-strikeout and one-walk masterpiece of nine shutout innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. Scherzer carried a perfect game into the seventh inning before a Carlos Gomez bloop flyball sailed over the head of Anthony Rendon in shallow right field.
The hit itself was one you don't see very often. Scherzer threw an inside fastball right on the hands of Gomez, yet somehow he lofted a softly-hit single to opposite field past Rendon. It was the furthest hit ball against Scherzer on the day and it traveled no more than 200 feet.
Sunday is by most accounts the second-best pitching performance in Nationals history, second of course to Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter on the final day of the 2014 season. But if you want to really get technical, the final out of Zimmermann's no-no - a long almost-double to left-center field - was squared up better than any swing against Scherzer on Sunday.
It may be nonsense to suggest a one-hitter is better than a no-hitter, but here are some notes to consider on Scherzer's memorable day:
- Scherzer had the longest perfect game bid in Nats history (6.0 IP), the second-longest is a tie at 5 1/3 innings between Zimmermann on June 8 of 2014 and Tanner Roark on May 26 of 2014.
- Scherzer's 16 strikeouts were a career-high, a Nationals single-game record and are tied for the second-most by any MLB pitcher this season.
- Sunday was Scherzer's second career complete game and the third time he has allowed just one hit in a start.
- Scherzer is just the second pitcher in the last 13 seasons (2003-2015) with 16 strikeouts in a shutout. The other was Brandon Morrow in 2010, when he was with the Blue Jays.
- Scherzer is the fifth pitcher in the last 25 seasons (1991-2015) with a complete game shutout, one hit or fewer and 16 strikeouts in a game. The others were Morrow (2010), Curt Schilling (2002), Kerry Wood (1998) and Nolan Ryan (1991). Ryan also did it three other times in his career.
- Scherzer is just the third pitcher ever to throw a one-hit shutout with 16 strikeouts or more and one walk or less. Ryan and Wood were the other two.
- Based on Bill James' game score, Scherzer pitched one of the greatest games of all time. He became just the 12th player in MLB history to post a 100 game score. The perfect game, for comparison, has only been accomplished 23 times.
Scherzer now sits 7-5 with a 1.93 ERA through 13 starts on the season with 113 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings pitched. Up until this year, Scherzer had never held a sub-3.00 ERA through his first 13 starts in a single season. He has been nothing short of dominant this year and is showing no signs of slowing down.
CSN researcher Rich Goldberg contributed to this story