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With 98th 10-K game, Max passes Koufax

@jessicacamerato
September 13, 2020

WASHINGTON -- It’s a feat Max Scherzer made look effortless, yet it’s been accomplished by a very select group. On Sunday against the Braves at Nationals Park, Scherzer passed Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax when he reached his 98th career game with 10-plus strikeouts. The hurling right-hander hit double digits

WASHINGTON -- It’s a feat Max Scherzer made look effortless, yet it’s been accomplished by a very select group.

On Sunday against the Braves at Nationals Park, Scherzer passed Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax when he reached his 98th career game with 10-plus strikeouts. The hurling right-hander hit double digits in just the fifth inning of the Nats’ 8-4 loss.

“Obviously, it feels better in a win. When you lose, it doesn’t feel as great,” Scherzer said. “It’s a really cool feat to be able to say you passed somebody like Sandy Koufax in anything. The fact that I was able to do that, that’s awesome.”

Box score

Scherzer is ranked fifth all-time on the list of most career games with 10-plus strikeouts. He trails only Nolan Ryan (215), Randy Johnson (212), Roger Clemens (110) and Pedro Martinez (108).

“Overall, I thought his stuff was crisp and he was firing on all cylinders early,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki.

This was Scherzer’s fifth game of the season with at least 10 Ks. He attributed his early effectiveness to his combination of fastballs (which maxed out at 96.6 mph), changeups and sliders, along with his putaway pitches. But it wasn’t enough to fend off the Braves.

“That’s the good part about it -- I’m generating some swing-and-misses,” Scherzer said. “This isn’t a ‘go back to the drawing board and figure anything out.’ I really feel good with how all the pitches were executed. Really, this outing was determined in the sixth inning. That’s what will frustrate me.”

Scherzer took the mound in the sixth with a 4-2 lead -- Asdrúbal Cabrera homered in the second inning, Suzuki's fielder's choice brought home a run in the fourth and Washington plated two on an error in the fifth -- but he also had a soaring pitch count.

Aware that the Nationals’ bullpen has been overworked, Scherzer intended to get through the inning. He said he felt good to go back out there, having had an extra day leading up to the start and knowing he has an extra two days before his next appearance. He also liked the matchups of three right-handers coming to the plate.

The strikeouts were halted, though, and Scherzer allowed two-run home runs to Adam Duvall and Ozzie Albies in a span of four pitches. Manager Dave Martinez cited missteps in location. Albies' shot put Atlanta up, 6-4, and marked the end of Scherzer's afternoon.

“He’s our ace,” Martinez said. “When we have these conversations and we’re watching him and he says he feels good, for me, who else do you want out there in the sixth inning?”

In addition to his 10 strikeouts, Scherzer allowed six runs off nine hits over 119 pitches (81 strikes) in 5 1/3 innings. His record stands at 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA after 10 starts this season.

"You just have to stay after a guy like that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He is so relentless and such a competitor. You can’t ever take a pitch off. Our guys did a great job of grinding at-bats, fouling balls off and getting pitches to hit. They beat a really good pitcher."

Up next
Following an off-day on Monday, the Nationals will face the Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV. Right-hander Aníbal Sánchez will take the mound in the Interleague matchup.

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.