Scherzer K's 11, steals base -- all in Expos blue

Nats ace extends one of his best stretches ever with 7 shutout innings

July 7th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- With such a hectic week leading up to the All-Star break, perhaps most pitchers would have had their start pushed back or even taken time off.

Instead, just hours before he was placed on paternity leave Wednesday, marched out to the bullpen in right field to complete a session that would leave him on his usual schedule. On Thursday, he and his wife, Erica, welcomed the birth of their second daughter, Kacey Hart, born at 8:51 a.m. at 7 pounds, 14 ounces. By Friday, once he was assured that everyone had come away healthy, Scherzer was spotted back around Nationals Park to keep with his routine ahead of this start.

Scherzer’s dominance every fifth day is becoming routine, even if the week leading up to it was not. On Saturday, Scherzer scattered four hits and a walk across seven shutout innings, striking out 11 and leading the Nationals to a 6-0 victory over the Royals on a day when Washington paid tribute to the team's Montreal roots by wearing the Expos' powder blue uniforms.

“Erica, she wanted me to pitch today,” Scherzer said with a laugh. “She wants me out there pitching, she doesn't want me sitting at home. She wants me pitching, we got the in-laws, we got help. She's a baseball wife. She's a pitcher. She knows, she wants me out there competing.”

Scherzer recorded double-digit strikeouts for the fifth consecutive start on Saturday, the second longest streak in his career, after a six-game streak from May 26-June 21, 2017. After laboring through a 25-pitch first inning, Scherzer made an adjustment based on the Royals' game plan, one he was not willing to expound much on but which allowed him to get through the rest of the game without much issue.

In the fourth inning, Scherzer even swiped the second base of his career, with a large secondary lead and running start to take advantage when he saw first baseman Lucas Duda playing behind him and Royals starter Glenn Sparkman paying little attention. He arrived at second base standing up and without a throw. It was the second game in his career in which Scherzer struck out at least 11 batters while also stealing a base. In the past 100 years, only Bob Gibson (three times) and Nolan Ryan (twice) have done so multiple times, according to STATS.

"I had no doubt in my mind that he was going to be locked in today,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “This guy, like I said many times, is one of the fiercest competitors. This guy prepares himself as good as anybody I've ever been around. There’s no doubt in my mind, he was going to be ready.”

There has been little able to slow down Scherzer in the midst of what has been one of the best stretches of his career.

In his past nine starts, dating back to May 22, Scherzer owns a 0.84 ERA with 94 strikeouts and nine walks in 64 innings. He completed the first half with a 2.30 ERA, third best in MLB, to go along with his Major League-leading 2.01 FIP and 181 strikeouts in 129 1/3 innings. He perhaps sits in the driver’s seat to capture the Cy Young Award for the fourth time in his career and third time with the Nationals.

The Nats will give him a bit of a breather before his next start, after the All-Star break on Sunday in Philadelphia, where Scherzer will look to continue this historic run.

“I played in Atlanta, and those guys they had were pretty good,” manager Dave Martinez said. “But what I've seen out of Max is incredible, it really is. No runs? I don't know how many games now where he keeps getting better and better as we go along.”