NEW YORK -- The latest Max Scherzer line looks like so many others the Nationals have seen from their right-handed ace.Eight innings, one run, four hits, 10 strikeouts. And three double plays.Three double plays?"That never happens," Scherzer said Friday night, after he pitched the Nationals to yet another win, 7-2,
NEW YORK -- The latest Max Scherzer line looks like so many others the Nationals have seen from their right-handed ace.
Eight innings, one run, four hits, 10 strikeouts. And three double plays.
Three double plays?
"That never happens," Scherzer said Friday night, after he pitched the Nationals to yet another win, 7-2, over the Mets at Citi Field.
He'll take credit for the innings, and for the rest of the performance that lowered his ERA another few points to 2.26. He'll take credit for the strikeouts, the fifth straight game he has reached double digits.
"It's a cool accomplishment," he said. "Not easy to do. Your pitches have to be sharp every time out. It speaks to where my stuff is."
And the double plays?
"I'm a fly-ball pitcher, guys," Scherzer said.
And yet, on this night, this fly-ball pitcher benefitted greatly from three balls the Mets hit on the ground.
Scherzer walked Lucas Duda and hit T.J. Rivera to start the second inning, but he got out of trouble by getting Travis d'Arnaud to ground to third to start the first double play. Steven Matz began the third inning with a single, but Michael Conforto grounded to second base to start the second one. With two on and one out in the sixth, Wilmer Flores grounded to short to start the third one.
"We're always thinking double play [in those situations]," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "A lot of times it happens because what you think will happen, happens. Like all great pitchers, he pitched to the need. In those particular situations, he needed a double play."
Nice story, except Scherzer disputes most of it. He admits to thinking about a double play when he threw a slider to d'Arnaud.
"The other two just happened," he said.
Scherzer hadn't induced more than one double play in any of his 59 starts since July 30, 2015, when the Marlins grounded into two. Only once in his prior 278 career starts had he seen three in the same game, on July 31, 2010, for the Tigers against the Red Sox. That night at Fenway Park, Scherzer took a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning, only to see the Red Sox rally to win against the Tigers' bullpen.
History didn't repeat Friday, at least not in that sense. Scherzer made it through eight innings, which was just enough to keep his double-digit strikeout string going. He needed four strikeouts in his final two innings to do it, and he needed to win a classic 11-pitch matchup with Yoenis Cespedes to get to 10 on his 118th and final pitch of the night.
"I love competing against the best," said Scherzer, who fully enjoyed the competition with Cespedes. "I didn't have the strikeout count in my head, but when I came off the mound someone mentioned it and I thought, 'Ooh, that's nice.'"
Scherzer's whole Nationals career has been nice, and nowhere more so than at Citi Field against Washington's division rivals. In six starts here since he signed with the Nationals, Scherzer has a 1.39 ERA.
Friday's start won't count as his best one at Citi Field, given that he threw a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts on Oct. 3, 2015. But the Nationals definitely liked this one, too.
"It was very enjoyable," Baker said. "That's what I heard [second baseman Daniel Murphy] tell Max, that it was enjoyable to watch."
And that, at least, is nothing new.
Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.