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Scherzer slings past Spahn, Feller on K list

Right-hander sits 27th all-time, piles up 10 K's to add to NL lead
@JamalCollier
June 15, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer is building his own strong case to be enshrined in Cooperstown at the end of his career, primarily on the back of outings like Friday’s 7-3 victory over the D-backs, when he passed a pair of Hall of Famers on the all-time strikeout list. Scherzer fanned

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer is building his own strong case to be enshrined in Cooperstown at the end of his career, primarily on the back of outings like Friday’s 7-3 victory over the D-backs, when he passed a pair of Hall of Famers on the all-time strikeout list.

Scherzer fanned 10 in seven innings of two-run ball, jumping ahead of Warren Spahn and Bob Feller, into 27th place all-time in MLB history with 2,585 career strikeouts. Spahn pitched for 21 years and threw more than 5,200 innings. Feller pitched for 18 years and threw more than 3,800 innings. Scherzer, meanwhile, is in just his 12th season with about 2,200 innings to his name, is already moving ahead of some of the all-time greats.

Box score

“Sweet,” Scherzer said. “Let's keep going.”

Such is the mentality for Scherzer, never satisfied to rest on his accolades. On Friday night, he reached double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time in 15 starts this season, and 87th such occasion in his career, the most among active pitchers. It improved his National League-leading strikeout total to 136 on the year.

Scherzer limited the D-backs to just three hits on the night, including a pair of solo homers -- from Carson Kelly in the third inning and Nick Ahmed in the fifth -- but he otherwise flummoxed Arizona’s offense. He surrendered just one additional hit -- a one-out single from Adam Jones in the fourth -- and issued one walk, making for a bunch of stress-free innings.

“He throws a lot of strikes, he attacks,” Ahmed said. “You can’t go up there and try to take and work the count, you’ve got to be ready to go. It’s just plus stuff with plus command, too. He’s one of the best.”

It was the first time this season Scherzer has allowed more than one home run in a start, as he has found a way to cut down on the number of balls leaving the yard this year. Even after surrendering a pair of solo homers Friday, he has allowed 0.72 HR/9 IP, which would be the best mark of his career.

“He’s a pro,” catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “He knows what he’s doing. One of the things he likes to say is ‘solo shots don’t kill you,’ which is true, unless you hit about six of them. He just goes right back on the horse.”

Just a few years ago, in 2016, Scherzer led the National League with 31 homers allowed. Even though he was dominant on the mound, and would go on to win the NL Cy Young Award that season, it almost served as a minor weakness to give opposing hitters hope.

Well, Scherzer has found a way to cut down on that weakness.

“I don't know, I don't get too caught up in it,” Scherzer said. “For me, I'm just trying to execute pitches. Tonight those two balls, I didn't quite execute the pitch that I wanted to … but for me, you don't get caught up in results. You worry about the process. You worry about how you're executing pitches and how you're sequencing them together.”

Scherzer already entered Friday leading the Majors in Wins Above Replacement among pitchers, per FanGraphs, and owned the best FIP among starters. And yet, he still finds ways to reach new heights.

Over his last five starts, he owns a 1.06 ERA with 49 strikeouts and six walks.

“You just watch him day in and day out when he's out there, it's almost -- you get spoiled,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Because you expect it every time he goes out.”

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.