The dominance has almost become routine at Nationals Park. The way, every fifth day, Max Scherzer takes the mound and continues to write another chapter of his place in the history books. After back-to-back Cy Young awards the past two seasons, he has started the 2018 season looking more unhittable than ever and has been awarded the National League's Pitcher of the Month for the first two months to begin the season.
His latest masterpiece came Tuesday night when he collected 13 strikeouts in eight innings of two-run ball, including an immaculate sixth inning, to lead Washington to a 4-2 victory over Tampa Bay. The crowd of 32,165 fans was on hand to witness another history-making moment from Scherzer, who's the first pitcher to 10 wins this season, against only one loss.
"It's hard to compare him to anybody really," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "I'm around him every day. From the other side, you see him and you say, 'Wow, every fifth day, he's really good.' But to see him every day, he's the best. He really is."
Scherzer did it by pounding the strike zone relentlessly on Tuesday night. He started 25 of the 28 batters he faced with a first-pitch strike. Of the 99 pitches he threw, 81 were strikes. It's the most strikes on record in a game of 100 pitches or fewer (surpassing 80-strike starts by Bartolo Colon and Don Newcombe).
Max Scherzer's 6th inning Tuesday— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) 6 de junio de 2018
It's the 2nd time this season a pitcher has thrown 9 pitches, all for strikes, in a single inning (Kevin Gausman on April 23) and it's the 2nd time Scherzer has done it in his career pic.twitter.com/EG0Ikz0YT7
"When you go out there and control the count like that, and consistently put them behind the eight-ball of being 0-1, you're dictating the action," Scherzer said. "It gives you so many more chances to mix and match and throw the pitch you want."
Scherzer fanned Johnny Field, pinch-hitter Christian Arroyo and Daniel Robertson on nine pitches for three swinging strikeouts to pull off an immaculate inning for the second time in the Majors this season. It took him a moment to realize what he had done, before he began counting the pitches in his head while walking off the field.
It's also the third time in Nationals history the feat has been accomplished, joining Scherzer's effort from May 14, 2017, and Jordan Zimmermann on May 6, 2011.
Max Scherzer This Season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) 6 de junio de 2018
- 1st in MLB to 10 wins
- 133 K in 87.2 IP
- 10+ K in 9 of 13 starts
Max Scherzer Tuesday
- 13 K in 8 IP
- 81 strikes on 99 pitches (82%), the highest strike pct of his career
- 3 K on 9 pitches in 6th inning pic.twitter.com/rnAEf3jHTb
"He has the same arm slot, same arm speed, pretty much every pitch," Rays second baseman Joey Wendle said. "You know a strike's coming, but you don't know what pitch, and you don't know in what count or in what location, so he's pretty unpredictable."
Matt Adams added a solo home run and Juan Soto went 1-for-2 with a pair of runs scored to give Scherzer some offense, but these days, Scherzer does not need much in the way of offensive support. He did not yield a run until the eighth inning Tuesday night, when he surrendered a two-run double to pinch-hitter Brad Miller.
Scherzer has reached double-digit strikeouts in at least nine of his 13 starts this season, and he posted his 19th career game with 10 or more strikeouts and no walks -- one more than Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez posted in his career -- ranking Scherzer fifth all-time. His ERA for the season stands at 1.95, which would be a career low. Somehow, after all his accolades, Scherzer continues to find ways to reach new heights.
"That's every pitcher. Every pitcher goes through this," he said. "You're always looking to continue to improve, to continue to sharpen every little thing you've got."