Yet that was good only for a no-decision in a game that took a few dramatic late twists, with the Nationals eventually defeating the Phillies, 5-4, on Wilmer Difo's walk-off single.
"Obviously [I] collected a ton of strikeouts today," said Scherzer, who allowed a run on five hits, two walks and a hit batter. "I've also got to tip my hat to them. They grind me real hard. They know what I throw. They have really good approaches. I couldn't just put anything in there in a 1-0 ballgame."
Scherzer's strikeouts were his most since he became the fifth Major League pitcher to fan 20 batters in a nine-inning game. That feat came in a 3-2, complete-game victory over the Tigers on May 11, 2016.
He now boasts five games with 15 or more strikeouts over his career, including four since joining the Nationals in 2015.
But on Sunday, Scherzer exited after 111 pitches -- including 71 strikes -- and lost his chance at a victory just moments after he reached the dugout, when Nick Williams pinch-hit for Philly starter Jake Arrieta and hit a game-tying single off reliever Sammy Solis.
"We had conversations from the fifth inning on," said manager Dave Martinez. "I know Max, and at that point, he went out in that [sixth] inning with purely heart. I told him, I said, 'Hey, you get the first two hitters after that,' and he agreed."
That was the beginning of a three-run Philadelphia seventh inning that partly overshadowed what transpired over the first six
At one point, the two-time defending National League Cy Young Award winner had fanned seven consecutive Philadelphia batters. That's the second-longest such stretch of the season in the bigs, and just three shy of the MLB record set by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in 1970.
Scherzer also recorded 12 consecutive outs via strikeout (with runners sprinkled in between) before Maikel Franco grounded his 104th pitch into a double play to end the sixth. That's the second-longest such streak in the Majors since the beginning of the expansion era (1961), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"The stuff, obviously, I've been trying to get everything solidified in terms of all the offspeed pitches and separating them," he said. "I felt like I was able to do that today. Just needed to get back into the zone. I need to work on being 0-1 and being 0-2, 1-2. So if I can do that, that's when I know I can be really successful."
Ian Quillen is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington, D.C.