WASHINGTON -- The way the Nationals have aligned their rotation through the rest of the season, Max Scherzer is in line to finish the year with two more starts, a chance to pad his resume as he pursues his third consecutive National League Cy Young Award.It will give Scherzer a
WASHINGTON -- The way the Nationals have aligned their rotation through the rest of the season, Max Scherzer is in line to finish the year with two more starts, a chance to pad his resume as he pursues his third consecutive National League Cy Young Award.
It will give Scherzer a chance to keep racking up strikeouts and reaching more milestones as he did Thursday night, when he racked up 13 strikeouts to reach 290 on the season, breaking his own Nationals record for most strikeouts in a single season. Despite Scherzer's gem, Anthony Rendon's 100th career home run and a two-run comeback in the eighth inning, the Nationals fell, 5-4, to the Mets in 12 innings.
Jose Lobaton drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly against Jefry Rodriguez in the 12th.
Scherzer held the Mets to three runs on five hits in seven innings, yielding back-to-back home runs in the third inning to Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce. Other than that blemish, Scherzer was dominant. He reached double-digit strikeouts for the 17th time this season and by striking out Jason Vargas to start the fifth, Scherzer set a new career high and surpassed his own team record from 2016.
• Gsellman first visitor to use the Nats' bullpen cart, as Doolittle looked on carefully
Strikeouts are Scherzer's best claim to the Cy Young Award as he competes with the Mets' Jacob deGrom and Phillies' Aaron Nola as the presumptive favorites for the award. Even though his ERA is nearly a full run higher than deGrom, Scherzer leads the Majors in strikeouts as he aims to become just the third pitcher in the past 16 seasons to reach 300, joining Chris Sale in 2017 and Clayton Kershaw in '15.
"You're aware of it, but that's not why you go out there and pitch," Scherzer said. "You go out there and pitch to win. I wanted to come in today and win a ballgame, and unfortunately we lost. You're always thinking about all those things you weren't able to do to help your team win. For me, those are milestones, and I don't pitch for those, I pitch to win."
Ever the perfectionist, Scherzer located a slight adjustment he needed to make to his mechanics that he believes will help his fastballs in his next outing.
Vargas, who threw six innings of shutout ball against the Nats last month, shut down the Nats offense once again until the sixth inning, when Rendon turned on a two-run homer to left field to reach his own milestone. Washington then rallied for a pair in the eighth inning, tying the game on Juan Soto's run-scoring double off Robert Gsellman.
The Nats had chances late in the game and in extra innings to potentially win it, but they could not come away with one last hit to seal the win.
"We needed one quality at-bat, we couldn't get that tonight," manager Dave Martinez said. "We had opportunities to win that game, a couple opportunities, a few opportunities, and we couldn't do it. We needed that one hit, that one sac fly, just move the ball, and we couldn't do it tonight."
Although this game will spoil Scherzer's chances at reaching 20 wins this season, he is still putting the finishing touches on another spectacular season. Now that he is in line to start the final game of the regular season against the Rockies, Scherzer is set for two more starts, giving him two more opportunities to make his case for the best pitcher in the NL.
"Two bad pitches, that's what I saw," Martinez said. "Other than that he was really good. He battled, like I said, congratulations to him ... and now he's got a couple more outings to get that 300. He battled, and you saw Max be Max."
For the first time this season, Bryce Harper was thrown out of a game Thursday when he was ejected in the 12th inning for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn. Harper was walking back toward the dugout when he was ejected and had to be restrained afterward by Martinez and third-base coach Bobby Henley.
"He was walking away," Martinez said. "I don't know what he said, I haven't talked to him, but he was walking away. It should be a done deal."
• Harper matched his career-high and a Nationals record for walks in a season after notching his 124th walk of the year in the first inning.
• Rendon's homer extended his streak to 28 consecutive games reaching base, a career high dating back to Aug. 21 and the longest active streak in baseball. He is batting .345 during that span.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
After singling in the 10th, Harper stole second base and was called safe after beating Kevin Plawecki's throw. The Mets challenged the call, and after a crew-chief review the call was overturned.
The Nationals get a first-hand look at one of the NL Cy Young Award frontrunners when they face deGrom and the Mets on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. ET. deGrom leads the Majors with a 1.78 ERA, and the Nats will try to break his Major League record of 27 consecutive starts of giving up three or fewer runs. Joe Ross will be the opposing pitcher, making his second start this year since returning from Tommy John surgery.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.