Max's wipeout slider key en route to 14 K's

June 7th, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- Nationals ace Max Scherzer baffled the Dodgers' left-handed-heavy lineup with his four-seam fastball and his slider en route to a season-high 14 strikeouts on Tuesday night.

Scherzer used his slider to record six of his strikeouts, and it was his second-most used pitch on the night in the Nationals' 2-1 win.

"It's just a pitch I have great feel for," Scherzer said. "If you find the zone early, it gives me an indication where out of the zone is low and away. It allows me to sequence guys the way I want to. I just know it's a great pitch for me."

Scherzer (7-3) lowered his ERA to 2.35 on the season and recorded his 55th career 10-plus-strikeout game, most among all active pitchers. He came within one strikeout of tying fellow ace for most strikeouts in a game this season.

Scherzer's last three outings have finished in double-digit strikeouts, and it all started with a minor adjustment. Scherzer said after a start against the Braves on May 20 that he's been focusing on keeping his hands high when he sets up on the mound.

"That's when all my pitches' shape plays right to where I want to," Scherzer said. "As long as I keep my hands high, things are good."

In his three starts that came after that outing in Atlanta, all victories, Scherzer has recorded 38 strikeouts over 24 2/3 innings while allowing just 11 hits and four walks.

Scherzer, however, did find himself in a jam early, with two walks and a dropped third strike loading the bases in the third, but he responded with a strikeout of Chris Taylor to end the Dodgers' threat.

Despite fanning nine through three innings, Scherzer found himself with a high pitch count and needed to settle in.

"He can get sharp when he needs to be," said Nationals manager Dusty Baker. "He had quite a few pitches early. The strikeouts don't help with your pitch total. Max was outstanding."

Scherzer topped out at 105 pitches, which was his 10th time reaching 100 pitches in a start this season, with 73 of those pitches going for strikes.

"For me, it was to work efficiently, and work early," Scherzer said. "I'm a strikeout pitcher, that's just who I am."