WASHINGTON -- Since he joined the Nationals at the start of the 2015 season, no other pitcher in baseball has taken a no-hitter through at least five innings with greater regularity than Max Scherzer.
He flirted with history once again Tuesday, by taking a no-no into the seventh inning against the Indians. However, Scherzer's effort was not enough to overcome a quiet night on offense for the Nationals in a 3-1 loss at Nationals Park.
He did become the first pitcher in the Majors to strike out 200 hitters this year in the third inning when he caught Indians catcher Roberto Pérez looking with a slider. Scherzer eclipsed the 200-strikeout mark for the fifth consecutive season, joining Clayton Kershaw, Félix Hernández and Justin Verlander as the only active pitchers to do so. Zack Greinke is the only other active pitcher to have at least five seasons of 200 or more strikeouts.
It became apparent early in the game that Scherzer had command of all his pitches, with his fastball velocity touching the upper 90s consistently. Those ingredients were all too familiar to the 30,978 fans at Nationals Park. They seemed to grow louder in anticipation as Scherzer retired the first 14 hitters in order before issuing a two-out walk to Tyler Naquin in the fifth inning, ending his bid for a perfect game but keeping alive the dream for a no-hitter.
Then, Ben Revere made a leaping grab at the wall in the sixth inning, and it seemed as if Scherzer was destined for another historic performance.
"Everybody was thinking it. You were thinking it," manager Dusty Baker said. "Because [Scherzer] knows how to close out those games."
But Francisco Lindor singled with one out in the seventh inning to break up the no-hit bid. It was the eighth time in the last two seasons Scherzer has flirted with a no-hit bid of at least five innings, the most in the Majors according to ESPN Stats and Info (Corey Kluber is second with six).
"Once you make it through six, you got a shot," Scherzer said. "I threw the ball really well tonight. It was the little things that beat me."
Cleveland scored twice in the seventh, aided by an errant pickoff throw from Scherzer, a run-scoring double from Jose Ramirez and a bloop single by Lonnie Chisenhall with the infield drawn in.
"That's something that can't happen," Scherzer said of the pickoff throw. "I have to be in control of that. I can't throw the ball away. Murph [Daniel Murphy] has no shot at catching that ball. It's just something that I messed up, and that cost me the game."
Still, Scherzer finished with another impressive start to continue a strong stretch lately. He gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits in seven innings with 10 strikeouts, his 10th double-digit strikeout game of the season, which leads the Majors. Entering Tuesday, Scherzer had posted a 1.84 ERA with a Major League-leading 108 strikeouts in his 12 starts since June 1. That dominant stretch has placed him in the National League Cy Young Award conversation.
"To be able to throw the ball as well as I did against them, that really shows me that I'm throwing the ball well," Scherzer said. "I'm doing everything I can with the curveball, the little cut slider that I throw, and then with the changeup. The offspeed pitches are right there to be able to combat that lineup and really hold them down. I'm really proud of that.
"That's the good that came out of this game. It's the little things that beat me, and that's what will keep me up late at night."