Scherzer’s current run ranks among best of his career

MIAMI - What’s the best seven-start stretch of Max Scherzer’s career with the Nationals?

The mind immediately turns to the summer of 2015, his first in Washington, when he - in succession - tossed a one-hitter in Milwaukee, then no-hit the Pirates in D.C., then carried a perfect game into the sixth inning in Philadelphia. But that was only three starts, great as they were.

You might remember a run of dominance in June 2017, when Scherzer posted an 0.86 ERA and 0.554 WHIP across seven starts, striking out 74 while walking only eight batters. That was ridiculously good and probably stands as the gold standard for sustained Scherzer stretches.

Scherzer-Slings-Gray@PHI-sidebar.jpgBut let’s give credit to Scherzer for what he’s currently doing, because he’s pitching as well right now as he ever has in his illustrious career.

Tuesday night’s eight-inning takedown of the Marlins was merely the latest chapter in a growing novel of dominant starts. Beginning May 22 in New York, Scherzer has embarked on a seven-start string in which he has gone 5-0 with an 0.92 ERA and 0.816 WHIP, striking out 69 while walking only eight in 49 innings.

Along the way, the right-hander has lowered his ERA from 3.72 to 2.52.

That’s as good a sustained stretch as he’s ever had, and he feels like he’s been able to get better with each outing.

“Take each start and what you’re able to adjust off of it, and what you’re able to add to it,” Scherzer said. “Once I kind of got everything synced up, I’ve been adding something every single start, to the point where I felt like tonight was really one of my best starts with off-speed (pitches) that I’ve had in quite a while.”

Scherzer’s starts have included high-strikeout, high-pitch-count games like Wednesday’s 117-pitch gem against the Phillies. But Tuesday night brought a new wrinkle: efficiency. Scherzer completed eight innings on only 94 pitches.

“What I like right now is that with two strikes, ahead in the count, he’s not messing around,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s going right after hitters. I really love that. That’s important, because you see the pitch count down. And that’s important right now.”

Has Scherzer been making a conscious effort to attack hitters more with two strikes? Or is this merely a reflection of him executing two-strike pitches with more regularity?

“He’s seeing the results,” Scherzer said of his manager. “I’m always trying to go after them. When you get to two strikes, you’re always trying to go after them. Right now I’m able to execute the off-speed pitches that I want and have them in the shape that I want, that’s when the efficiency picks up. So the results start coming through and that’s what it looks like. It’s more about the process than anything. ... Now that I have my mechanics where I really, really want them, it’s allowing me to be consistent with the off-speed pitches. When I can do that, that’s when I’m at my best.”

Scherzer recorded his customary 10 strikeouts Tuesday. It was the third consecutive start in which he’s done it. (It would be five in a row if not for a nine-strikeout game in San Diego on June 8.) It’s the seventh time he’s done it this season, the 89th time he’s done it in his career.

Scherzer has, far and away, the most 10-strikeout games in the majors since he debuted in 2008. Chris Sale ranks next with 73, followed by Clayton Kershaw (59) and Justin Verlander (55).

But here’s the crazy stat, as discovered by Christopher Kamka of NBC Sports Chicago: Scherzer has more 10-strikeout games individually since 2008 than 21 major league franchises.

It sometimes feels like we just take this guy for granted, doesn’t it?

“I’m sure,” shortstop Trea Turner said. “We expect it out of him. I expect it out of him, just because he goes out there every fifth day and gives you 100 pitches, everything he’s got in the tank, and competes. I think sometimes we do.”

Here’s a word of advice for everyone out there: Don’t take it for granted. We’re witnessing greatness every five days. And he’s still doing it, five years into a seven-year contract many felt at the time amounted to a massive overpay for a good, but not great, pitcher.

Nobody should be feeling that way anymore.

blog comments powered by Disqus