Last night, Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer became the first big league pitcher to record 20 strikeouts in 9 innings pitched since Randy Johnson pulled it off in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks when he fanned 20 Cincinnati Reds.
What made Scherzer’s 20 Ks particularly special was that he did so against his former teammates with the Detroit Tigers en route to a 3-2 victory. Scherzer, who turns 32 next month, was a member of the Tigers between 2011 through 2014 winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2013. Prior to 2015, Scherzer signed a 7-year, $210 million dollar deal with the Nats. In his inaugural season in D.C., Scherzer struck out 276 batters and threw two no-hitters becoming the first pitcher to throw 2 no-no’s during the regular season since Nolan Ryan in 1973. Last night’s performance only adds to Scherzer’s stellar resume. Most remarkably, Scherzer did not walk a single batter.
Since 1986, four pitchers have struck out 20 batters in a game. Roger Clemens did so twice as a member of the Boston Red Sox first in 1986 against the Seattle Mariners and then a decade later against the Tigers making them the only team to strike out 20 times in a game twice. Chicago Cubs rookie Kerry Wood joined the 20 K club in his fifth big league start against the Houston Astros in 1998 followed by the Big Unit three years later.
One pitcher has struck out 21 batters and he also wore a Washington uniform. In an otherwise undistinguished career, Washington Senators pitcher Tom Cheney fanned 21 members of the Baltimore Orioles late in the 1962 season. However, Cheney’s 21 strikeouts were done over 16 innings.
I’m sure Scherzer is happy that he is no longer in a Tiger uniform. Detroit has lost 8 of their last 9 games and manager Brad Ausmus is on the hot seat.
With more than five years remaining on his contract, what more can Scherzer accomplish beyond two no-hitters and a 20 strikeout game? Perhaps a perfect game with 21 strikeouts? I’m sure Scherzer would reply with three words – World Series ring.
By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Max Scherzer) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons