MIAMI -- Max Scherzer turned 34 on Friday. By that point, most pitchers at least start to show signs of their age, and yet there Scherzer stood on the mound Friday night at Marlins Park, still at the top of his game and showing no signs of the effects of
MIAMI -- Max Scherzer turned 34 on Friday. By that point, most pitchers at least start to show signs of their age, and yet there Scherzer stood on the mound Friday night at Marlins Park, still at the top of his game and showing no signs of the effects of Father Time.
Scherzer retired the first 10 batters in order and carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He fanned 11, reaching the 200-strikeout mark for the seventh consecutive season. He even added a single and scored a run, showing off the skills he has developed at the plate. Scherzer's contributions helped lead another all-around dominant game from the Nationals in a 9-1 drubbing of the Marlins to capture the first two games of a four-game set that could change Washington's season.
"Tonight, [Scherzer] was just about as good as I think I've seen," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He's pitched good against us at times. But tonight, it didn't look like he left anything in the middle of the plate."
The Nationals won their third consecutive game, a small feat, but a rare one they had not accomplished since July 5-7, when they beat Miami in three straight games. These wins are all important for the Nats as their decision-makers weigh their approach before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. With this win, Washington climbed to one game over .500 at 52-51 and gained a game on the Phillies and Braves, the two teams ahead of them in the National League East, to pull to within six games of the division lead.
"We get it. We know where we're at. we know the situation everything's in," Scherzer said. "But at the same time, you can't get bigger than the game. You can't start thinking that this game is more important than any other game. You got to stay within yourself and go out there and compete how you know how to compete."
Scherzer did just that, tossing eight innings and yielding one unearned run. And he got some help from the Nationals' bats, which are showing signs of becoming the dangerous lineup they were expected to be at the start of the year.
Juan Soto hammered his 13th home run of the season in the second inning and finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a double shy of the cycle. Daniel Murphy collected three hits. Bryce Harper and Matt Adams each drove in a pair of runs. And the Nats added a five-spot in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach.
"When you score, you want to just put teams away," Nats manager Dave Martinez said. "And we've been able to do that the last few games. It's good to see, and these guys are starting to swing the bats a lot better. We're prolonging innings, guys having better at-bats, we're staying in the middle of the field, so it's been really good."
Scherzer has been the constant for the Nats this season, in the midst of another year worthy of Cy Young Award consideration. Even as the calendar turns on another year for the 11-year veteran, the Nats have seen few signs that Scherzer is going to stop being effective anytime soon.
"He works unbelievably hard," Martinez said prior to the game. "He competes every day. I've got a really strong feeling he's going to be good for a long while. He takes care of himself. He works hard every day. He prepares himself. He watches video. He does a lot of extra things that -- if you watch him -- he really takes pride in. He's really good. I think he's going to be good for a long time."
KEEPING IT 200
Scherzer's seven-season streak of at least 200 strikeouts is the longest active streak in the Majors. It is also tied for the second-longest streak in Major League history, according to Elias, joining Walter Johnson and Roger Clemens (Tom Seaver has nine).
"Durability. The fact that I've been able to keep making every start, going out there and just pitching with my stuff and keep making every start, that's something I take pride in," Scherzer said. "The fact that I can be counted on for 30-plus starts a year, I kind of take personally."
Boston's Chris Sale -- Scherzer's counterpart as the starting pitcher for the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard earlier this month -- also reached the 200-strikeout mark Friday. Scherzer leads the NL in strikeouts by a wide margin over Jacob deGrom, who's second with 159 strikeouts.
"Special. Special. There's really no other way to describe it," Murphy said. "I've said it before: I think one day I'll look back on this time watching Max, and I think he's so good that you almost take it for granted. I think one day 10 or 15 years from now, he'll probably be enshrined in Cooperstown and I'll tell my son that I got to play behind him."
Soto homered for the third straight game on Friday and is now tied with Mickey Mantle for the sixth-most home runs all time as a teenager.
"I think he's just working good at-bats and squaring balls up," Martinez said. "The thing about him, you talk to him every day and try to keep him grounded and try to tell him to make sure you stay in the middle of the field and take your walks. He's been really good." More >
Giovany Gonzalez will take the mound just up the road from his hometown of Hialeah when the Nats face the Marlins on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Gonzalez issued five walks in 5 2/3 innings against the Brewers in his last outing, but he does usually pitch well against Miami, with a 1.93 ERA in his career vs. the Marlins. Right-hander Trevor Richards will be the opposing pitcher.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.