WASHINGTON -- 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 fewer than 100 pitches (surpassing 80-strike starts by Bartolo Colon and Don Newcombe).
"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.
"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."
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Scherzer became just the fifth pitcher in MLB history to record multiple immaculate innings, a group that includes Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax and Lefty Grove. He's the second pitcher to do it this season, joining the Orioles' Kevin Gausman.
"Awesome. It's just one of those things, it just happened," Scherzer said. "Just executing pitches. It's one of those things where, hey, it happened. That's more to the preparation than anything, and knowing what [catcher Pedro Severino] wanted behind the plate."
HE SAID IT
"It's been awesome. The energy from Game 4 [of the Stanley Cup Final], I swear I woke up this morning with an extra bounce in my step. The way the Caps played, the fans, the energy at that stadium, everyone here in DC -- how could you not wake up with an extra bounce in your step? I was itching to get out to the field and play. Good things happen when the whole city gets behind you." -- Scherzer, on leading a "Let's Go Caps" chant with Ryan Zimmerman on Monday night during the Stanley Cup Final
"I looked up at one time, he had 86 pitches, and 70 strikes, it's absurd. Guys just don't do that. There's a lot of good pitchers in this league, but for a guy to just sit there and pound the strike zone the way he did and not give up hard hits, it's really telling about how special of a pitcher he is." -- Rays manager Kevin Cash, on Scherzer filling up the strike zone
A few days after making a relief appearance Sunday that doubled as his bullpen session in between starts, Tanner Roark will take the mound again Wednesday afternoon against the Rays. He has thrown at least seven innings in three of his past four starts. Tampa Bay will sent left-hander Jonny Venters to the mound for his first big league start with first pitch at 1:05 p.m. ET.