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Leader Watch: Mad Max dominates in return

Defending NL Cy Young Award winner K's 10 in first start off DL
MLB.com

Max Scherzer didn't miss a beat. Did anyone really think he would?

The Nationals' ace returned from the DL on Monday and dominated the Marlins. Scherzer went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits, with 10 strikeouts. Even Giancarlo Stanton, who has 50 home runs and has been crushing whoever takes the mound against him, couldn't touch Scherzer, who got Stanton to ground into a double play in the first inning, then struck him out in his next two at-bats.

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Max Scherzer didn't miss a beat. Did anyone really think he would?

The Nationals' ace returned from the DL on Monday and dominated the Marlins. Scherzer went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits, with 10 strikeouts. Even Giancarlo Stanton, who has 50 home runs and has been crushing whoever takes the mound against him, couldn't touch Scherzer, who got Stanton to ground into a double play in the first inning, then struck him out in his next two at-bats.

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Scherzer's outing Monday continued his run of brilliance in the 2017 season. Mad Max is among the National League leaders in just about every relevant pitching category.

Start with the Triple Crown stats: Wins, ERA and strikeouts. Scherzer has a commanding lead in the K's department, with 230 to Jacob deGrom's 201. He's second in ERA at 2.21, inching closer to Clayton Kershaw's league-leading 2.04 mark. As far as wins go, there's a logjam at the top, with Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Zach Davies all at 15 and deGrom at 14. Scherzer is now two off the pace with 13.

Video: MIA@WSH: Scherzer fans 10 over seven strong innings

No pitcher has won a Triple Crown since 2011. That year, it happened in both leagues, with Justin Verlander, Scherzer's teammate at the time, taking the crown in the American League and Kershaw in the NL.

It's Kershaw, of course, who tends to be held up opposite Scherzer as his foil in the NL, the two of them jockeying for the title of "best pitcher in the world." So it's only fitting that, as Kershaw himself prepares to return from injury, they're once again competing for many of the league's statistical titles.

On the line, potentially, is another Cy Young Award. Scherzer is the NL's reigning Cy Young winner, and he also has won in the AL (in 2013). Kershaw has won the Cy three times, most recently in 2014.

Tweet from @Nationals: Max Scherzer has recorded the 63rd 10+ K game of his career, 14th of the season, and 1st since... The last time he pitched. pic.twitter.com/Y9MuZTdrwa

Scherzer's elite numbers on the mound extend well beyond the three Triple Crown stats. He leads qualified NL pitchers in categories like WHIP, strikeouts per nine innings and batting average against. Scherzer has a 0.85 WHIP, is averaging 12.37 K's per nine, and he's holding opposing hitters to a .172 batting average. The pitcher he's ahead of in all three categories? Kershaw.

Scherzer even tops some Statcast™ leaderboards. For example, he leads Major League starters in expected batting average (the batting average Statcast™ estimates for a pitcher based on the quality of contact he has allowed, in terms of exit velocity and launch angle). Even before his stellar outing Monday, hitters' expected batting average against Scherzer was just .169. The next-lowest xBA among qualified NL starters is, not surprisingly, Kershaw once again, at .200.

The list goes on. If there's a quality you want in a pitcher, Scherzer provides it. Even after only a short absence, it's good to have him back.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Washington Nationals, Max Scherzer