LOS ANGELES -- It was 13 years ago that Max Scherzer came running out of the Chase Field bullpen. He was just another young pitcher with a lot of potential ready to make his Major League debut.
The D-backs took Scherzer with the 11th pick in the 2006 MLB Draft, fully expecting the right-hander to make an impact at the big league level. But even they couldn’t predict what has become one of the most impressive careers in Major League history.
The 37-year-old Scherzer has accomplished just about everything in his career. He won a World Series title with the Nationals in 2019. He’s a three-time Cy Young Award winner and is making a strong bid for a fourth. He’s also an eight-time All-Star and is one of just four pitchers to start at least four Midsummer Classics.
In the Dodgers’ 8-0 win over the Padres on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, Scherzer added another feat to his surefire Hall of Fame career, becoming the 19th member of the 3,000-strikeout club. Scherzer recorded his 3,000th career strikeout when he fanned Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer in the fifth inning. Not satisfied with that, he then made a deep run at a perfect game.
Scherzer is one of just two active pitchers -- along with Justin Verlander -- to reach the 3,000-strikeout plateau.
“It’s hard to describe the emotion of it. It’s an awesome achievement, an awesome milestone,” Scherzer said. “Not too many people have reached this milestone, and it’s an awesome thing to accomplish.
“To me, this is a testament to durability, to making my 30-plus starts year in and year out. Everybody can have the ability to do this, but few have the durability to do this. All the hard work I’ve put in to be able to have this moment, that’s what feels good.”
It didn’t take Scherzer long to reach the milestone on Sunday. He struck out Trent Grisham to start the game. Scherzer then followed it up by striking out the side in the second inning. Oh, and he did it as part of an immaculate inning -- nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts. It’s Scherzer’s third career immaculate inning; he joined Chris Sale and Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers on record to accomplish the feat three times.
“You want it,” Scherzer said with a smile. “You want to go out and finish it. Today, my body felt great --[hamstring] felt great, and I was able to step on a fastball in that situation and I was able to get it. That was pretty cool.”
Over the next few innings, Scherzer had a couple of two-strike counts, but Padres hitters were able to delay the inevitable for a couple of frames. Then in the fifth inning, Scherzer struck out Hosmer swinging on a 3-2 changeup, resulting in No. 3,000. Scherzer, who famously doesn’t like to be touched or talked to during starts, took a moment to tip his cap to the fans and received a loud ovation.
“You kind of see when he got to one strikeout away, guys started swinging earlier because they didn’t want to be the 3,000th, which I don’t blame them,” said Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. “But he was destined toward it. All the work he puts in, who he is and everything he does … I expect nothing less from him.”
The milestone in hand, Scherzer went after the perfect game. He struck out nine over eight scoreless innings retired the first 22 batters he faced, finishing with one hit allowed.
“Once I was able to get through the sixth, I thought ‘OK, I’ve got a shot to do this,’” Scherzer said. “I was able to get through the seventh in a tight spot and knew going into the eight that [Fernando] Tatis Jr. and Hosmer were going to be tough at-bats.”
Scherzer proved to be right as Hosmer ended the perfect-game bid with a one-out double to right field. The crowd, which was hanging on every pitch, gave Scherzer another standing ovation.
“He just has a different level of execution and heartbeat. It’s impressive. At different times, I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to appreciate watching this guy every fifth day,’” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Everything he does from here on out is just going to add to his lore, his legacy.”
Scherzer has been putting up video game numbers since joining the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline. Los Angeles has won all eight of Scherzer’s starts, and he is 6-0 with a 0.88 ERA and 72 strikeouts since joining the club. The 0.88 ERA is the lowest for a pitcher in his first eight starts with a team since the stat became official in both leagues in 1913.
“Obviously, you see him from afar and dominating, you face him a couple of times and he goes seven and eight innings every single time,” Betts said. “But just to be playing behind him, it’s just so much more fun. It’s just kind of amazing to watch greatness. Now you just really appreciate the best of the best when you get to see it every day.”
That’s who Scherzer is. He’s arguably the best right-handed pitcher of his generation. Scherzer took the mound Sunday with the song “Last of a Dying Breed” blaring through the Dodger Stadium speakers.
“It usually takes a year to fully appreciate what that means in the context of everything,” Scherzer said. “Hopefully, I go out there and keep pitching, keep dreaming up new things to be able to do and, hopefully, get more perspective and appreciate the history of this more here a year from now.”