Scherzer's second no-hitter a prelude to an amazing run

It is fun to look back at great games in Nationals history, especially Max Scherzer's no-hitters of 2015, his first season with the Nats. The first no-no was June 20 against the Pirates and the second one that season occurred Oct. 3.

"Nationals Classics" this weekend on MASN include Jayson Werth's grand slam in a win over Miami on April 9, 2014 (tonight, 9 p.m.), the April 30, 2017 win over the Mets in which Anthony Rendon crushed three homers and had 10 RBIs in a 23-5 runaway (Sunday, noon), and the May 2, 2019 win over the Cardinals when Stephen Strasburg became the fastest to 1,500 strikeouts (Sunday, 9 p.m.).

Max Scherzer no-hitter Citi Field.jpgBut today we go back to the night of Oct. 3, 2015, a 2-0 win for Scherzer in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader against the Mets. Two days later, New York (90-72) started a surge to a World Series appearance while the Nats (83-79) were eliminated from playoff contention. The Mets ended up beating the second-place Nats for the division by seven games.

Scherzer was on his game as the season came to an end. In his previous start, he took the Cincinnati Reds down to the wire, flirting with a no-hitter into the eighth inning in a 5-1 win on Sept. 28.

And this Saturday night, Scherzer was not to be denied against a Mets team that had already clinched the division.

Scherzer struck out two in the first inning and five in the first three frames. He was mixing his fastball with his changeup, curveball and slider. He got Dilson Herrera to strike out swinging on a 96 mph fastball for the second out of the third.

The most amazing streak of the game, though, came between the sixth and ninth innings when Scherzer struck out nine batters in a row.

The biggest moment was successive strikeouts of dangerous pinch-hitters Yoenis Céspedes and Lucas Duda with 96 mph fastballs in the bottom of the ninth. Scherzer sealed his second no-hitter in three and a half months by getting Curtis Granderson to pop up to Yunel Escobar softly at third base and end the game.

The Mets had few chances against Scherzer that night. In the bottom of the fourth, Granderson's line shot was gloved by second baseman Dan Uggla for the first out. It might have been the hardest hit ball all night.

Scherzer had recorded 15 straight outs to begin the game. But to begin the sixth, Escobar's low throw to first baseman Clint Robinson was dropped for an error and the Mets had their first baserunner of the game.

Kevin Plawecki was erased one out later on a fielder's choice grounder to Uggla. That was it for the Mets. Two runners reached in the sixth, but they got nothing else. Even pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy grounded out. Granderson struck out on a 97 mph fastball to end the inning.

Scherzer finished with 17 strikeouts, ending up facing only one batter over the minimum at 28. He averaged around 10 or 11 pitches per inning, totaling 91 pitches, 61 for strikes.

Nats broadcaster F.P. Santangelo after the final out on MASN deemed the win as: "One of the most dominating performances you'll ever see in your life."

No-hitters are extremely rare. Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann are the only Nats pitchers to pull off the feat. Historically, Johnny Vander Meer (1938), Allie Reynolds (1951), Virgil Trucks (1952), Nolan Ryan (1973), and Scherzer (2015) are the only major leaguers to throw two no-hitters in the same regular season.

After the game, the Mets took off in the postseason, beating the Dodgers (3-2) and the Cubs (4-0) to reach the World Series before falling to the Royals (4-1). Murphy was named the MVP of the National League Championship Series. The second baseman then played the next 2 1/2 seasons for the Nats, finishing second in NL MVP voting in 2016.

In 2015, Scherzer ended up 14-12 with a 2.79 ERA. Surprisingly, Scherzer was 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA in August 2015 before really rolling.

Scherzer had an incredible 2016, winning the NL CY Young Award, going 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA. He won the Cy Young again in 2017.

And of the 10 players that took the field for the Nats that night - albeit in the nightcap of a doubleheader - only Trea Turner, Michael A. Taylor and Wilmer Difo are still with the team, along with Scherzer. Difo provided the biggest hit for the Nats, a solo shot in the seventh that helped them to a 2-0 advantage. Regulars including Rendon, Bryce Harper, Werth and Ian Desmond had started in the opener (a 3-1 Nats victory).

The Nats catcher that night, Wilson Ramos, now plays for the Mets. The next season would be his last with the Nats. Ramos holds the distinction of being the catcher for all three of the Nats' no-hitters.

Scherzer has now pitched five seasons for the Nats, matching the number of years he was in Detroit. The emotional embrace he enjoyed with Aníbal Sánchez after the Nats won the World Series in Houston was born out of everything they had been through together.

Although he had three more regular season wins in the Motor City (82 to 79), Scherzer's 2.74 ERA in D.C. has eclipsed his 3.52 mark with the Tigers. He has nine complete games and four shutouts with the Nats, after one shutout and one complete game while with Detroit.

More importantly, Scherzer now has a World Series title under his belt. But 2015 was the season that started it all. Those two no-hitters that year epitomized the dominance the ferocious right-hander is capable of when he gets into his "Mad Max" zone.

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