Monumental feat: Scherzer spins no-no
WASHINGTON -- It was hard to imagine how Max Scherzer could top himself, but he did just that on Saturday. Scherzer tossed the second no-hitter in Nationals history in typical dominant Scherzer fashion, six days after completing a 16-strikeout one-hitter. Josh Harrison flied out to left field two hours and 21 minutes after he started the game with a popout, and the Nationals beat the Pirates, 6-0, at Nationals Park.
"Mission accomplished," Scherzer said after he cleaned off the postgame chocolate sauce shower that has become a Nationals staple after standout performances. "Just feeling like it's a great team win."
Scherzer struck out 10 Pirates in his second straight shutout and the third of his career. He lost the perfect game with two outs in the ninth when he hit pinch-hitter Jose Tabata on the elbow on a 2-2 count.
"He hit him with the baseball," manager Matt Williams said. "It's difficult when that happens, but he settled back in and got the last guy out, which shows his mental fortitude that he was able to make a pitch and get the last guy for the no-hitter."
His run support started in the fourth with Bryce Harper's 23rd home run of the season, a solo shot. The Nationals tacked on four more runs in the sixth off Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano before he was chased after Tyler Moore's two-run single.
The Pirates came into D.C. on an eight-game winning streak, but have scored one run in the 18 innings they've played in Nationals Park.
"He had fantastic stuff," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of Scherzer. "The fastball command, the breaking ball … in 13 starts, he's got 14 walks, so that's not in the game plan against him. You gotta find a way to hit him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Max'd out: In Scherzer's last two starts, he's faced 57 hitters, three over the minimum. He lost a perfect game in his last start in the seventh inning. He needed only 106 pitches to complete Saturday's no-hitter.
"My last two starts, this is some of the best baseball I've thrown, best pitching I've done," Scherzer said. "I just feel like I'm executing with all my pitches. I just continue to keep getting better and it shows you hard work pays off." More >
Bryce is back: With a solo blast projected by Statcast™ to have traveled 436 feet from home plate, Harper set a new career high for home runs with 23. The solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning broke the scoreless tie. More >
Defense steps up: As Scherzer took aim at history against the Pirates, soft contact threatened to derail him. Fortunately for Scherzer, his teammates came through in the eighth with a pair of nice plays. On a soft fly ball hit to left by Jung Ho Kang, Michael Taylor, Denard Span and Ian Desmond converged on the ball, but Taylor stepped in to make the grab. Later in the frame, Danny Espinosa made a nice throw on a sharp grounder in a defensive shift to get Pedro Alvarez for the last out. In the ninth, Anthony Rendon made the highlight play, grabbing a Gregory Polanco popup that had him crash into the Pirates' dugout railing. More >
Mercer comes close: Jordy Mercer came closest of the Pirates to getting a hit -- twice. Not too close, but closest. His third-inning drive sent Taylor to and possibly above the top of the left-field wall. In the sixth, Mercer hit a drive down the third-base line, hard but comfortably foul, before popping out.
"First pitch, he threw me a get-me-over slider," Mercer said of the sixth-inning at-bat. "I was just ahead of it, and basically that's what he wanted me to do -- get ahead of it and get me 0-and-1."
"It was a really good at-bat. Finally he threw a front-door slider to him. Elbow was a little bit in the strike zone. That's what I saw on the video, but that happens. That's what happens in baseball. But [Scherzer] never took his head down. He got mad in that moment, but right away just get the ball back to him. He attacked the next hitter really well." -- catcher Wilson Ramos on the final two at-bats of the game
"I think you need to find it in your baseball heart to appreciate the performance." -- Hurdle, on finding pleasure in the pain of being on the wrong end of Scherzer's no-hitter
Pirates: Charlie Morton will try to prolong the best stretch of his career when he confronts the Nationals at 1:35 p.m. ET on Sunday in Nationals Park in the series finale. Morton has won his last six starts, which include his first five of this season.
Nationals: Gio Gonzalez will try to keep up the trend of incredible performances by Washington starters. He is 4-4 on the year with a 4.82 ERA.
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