WASHINGTON -- It was admittedly a bit odd for Max Scherzer to break his laser focus and intensity even for a second, especially with Adrian Beltre, perhaps a future Hall of Famer, getting ready to step into the batter's box. But the crowd of 32,027 at Nationals Park was showering Scherzer with a standing ovation as he made history once again at Nationals Park.
Scherzer became the third-fastest pitcher in Major League history to strike out 2,000 batters by innings and games when he unleashed a sharp curveball to whiff Nomar Mazara to start the fourth inning of Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Rangers. So as his accomplishment flashed over the scoreboard, Scherzer acknowledged the fans as he stalked around behind the mound, tipping his cap to the fans before he turned his attention back to his latest gem.
After the game, it was hard for Scherzer to reflect on this milestone in a loss, but he did perk up upon hearing the company he had joined. Scherzer achieved the feat in his 1,784th inning, marking the third-fastest time by innings behind only Pedro Martinez (1,711) and Randy Johnson (1733 1/3), both of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
"It's crazy to hear me mentioned even among those guys," Scherzer said. "Those are my pitching idols. I'm growing up watching those guys. So any type of mention of anything among those guys -- I don't know, it doesn't even seem real."
Scherzer, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, became just the 80th Major League pitcher to notch 2,000 strikeouts as he continues to build a resume that could earn him consideration for the Hall of Fame. And Scherzer did so in his 287th game, matching Nolan Ryan's third-fastest pace behind Johnson and Clayton Kershaw.
"He knows how to put guys away," Nats catcher Matt Wieters said. "That's the thing about Max, is he's not going to let anybody up for air when he can have them down and that's why he's such a great strikeout pitcher. Every time he goes out there, he gives us a chance to win, so that's all you can ask for from your starting pitcher."
Scherzer finished with 10 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings, marking his fourth consecutive game with double-digit whiffs -- matching a career high -- and his seventh 10-K game this season. Scherzer has double-digit strikeouts in 56 games, the most among active pitchers.
"Strikeouts are part of my game," he said. "I'm looking to generate strikeouts in every way I can. It's about how you throw finishing pitches at the at-bat, trying to dissect hitters to figure out how to increase [strikeouts]. But try to do it efficiently. I'm not trying to throw six or seven pitches just to be able to strike you out. I'm trying to do it in three or four. It's the homework and the process between starts that I really focus on to help me do that."