Nearly perfect still left Scherzer feeling sweet in one-hit shutout

It has long been said that baseball is a game of inches. Nationals ace Max Scherzer can relate to that better than anyone today after a broken-bat blooper from Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez floated just beyond the webbing of second baseman Anthony Rendon’s glove, falling safely into right field and spoiling Scherzer’s perfect game bid in the seventh inning.

“I put some hair on that fastball, but he was able to get it in there and fall,” Scherzer said on MASN’s “Nats Xtra” postgame show. “I mean, that’s just why it’s so hard to throw a perfect game or no-hitter. It takes some luck.”

Max Scherzer throwing red.jpgThe Brewers somehow managed another baserunner on Scherzer’s only walk of the game in the eighth, but that was it. The masterpiece included a new Nationals single-game record 16 strikeouts, passing the mark of 14 held by Stephen Strasburg from his 2010 major league debut.

“I was able to pitch with my fastball early and started to mix my off-speed in and (Jose Lobaton) just did a great job back in sequencing,” Scherzer said on “Nats Xtra.” “I just felt like we were in sync all day. And I was just able to execute the game plan all day.”

Scherzer typically spends his time in between innings in the tunnel staying cool, so it wasn’t easy to tell if the drama was affecting him.

“Once you get through about four or five innings, you realize what’s going on,” Scherzer said on “Nats Xtra.”

But perfection seemed attainable after Scherzer mowed down the side with three straight strikeouts in the sixth.

Clint Robinson gave Scherzer some breathing room with a two-run double in the top of the seventh to extend the Nats’ lead to 4-0. But it was just moments later, when Scherzer took the mound after the seventh-inning stretch, that Gomez was able to fight off a 96 mph heater and find an empty patch of grass in right field.

“It’s unfortunate that it fell in,” Nationals manager Matt Williams told reporters after the game. “If you ask Max, he’s concerned with the win, as we all are. I wouldn’t imagine that that’s gonna be the last opportunity that he has to do something special.”

The deepest Scherzer had previously taken a perfect game was only four innings in July 2013. In addition, the effort became the second complete game shutout of his career and the 16 strikeouts also bested his previous single-game high by one.

“Today is an example of him being able to throw the slider for a strike and fastball to both sides of the plate ... elevated when needed,” Williams told reporters. “He used the changeup against the lefties. He’s able to throw it for strikes when he wants to and down out of the strike zone when he wants to as well.”

“So if I’m a hitter and I’m facing him, I want to be aggressive and hit the fastball, but if he gets ahead with it, then he can use his other pitches.”

Rendon picked up his first RBI of the season on a sacrifice fly in the third and Jose Lobaton added an RBI single in the fourth, scoring Robinson. Robinson was 2-for-4 with two RBIs while replacing Bryce Harper in right field. Harper was unable to play after being hit by a fastball on the inside of his left knee in his final plate appearance on Saturday.

“He’s still sore,” Williams told reporters. “It was good that we were able to get him a day off today and get some treatment on it. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Scherzer’s gem helped the Nats to their first back-to-back wins since May 24-25.

“It’s awesome,” Scherzer said on “Nats Xtra.” “This is what you need. We fell down 2-0 in the series and to be able to split the series with this team on the road ... that’s what we need. We can feed off this and keep it going forward.”

Scherzer was asked which of his astonishing feats from today impressed him more.

“Probably the one-hitter. The 16 punchouts were great,” he said.

And then came Drew Storen armed with Hershey’s syrup bottles to give Scherzer the long-awaited postgame chocolate shower.

Covered in chocolate, Scherzer was left with only one word to sum up the spectacular performance.

“Awesome,” he said.

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