Max Scherzer’s in good hands with Wilson Ramos behind the plate

Max Scherzer and Wilson Ramos celebrate after the Nationals' pitcher no-hit the Pirates in June.

After Max Scherzer allowed up two hits, two runs and beaned Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips in the top of the fifth inning Tuesday night, Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams trotted out to his All-Star pitcher.

The right-hander’s night was over after 4 2/3 innings, the first time he’s pitched less than five innings in 385 days.

"Guys, I’ve had stinkers before," Scherzer said with a reassuring smile to the media scrum around him after the game. "It’s just part of the deal, part of the gig."

Scherzer surrendered seven hits and five earned runs in the Nationals’ 5-0 loss to the Reds. Those stinkers have been infrequent for the 30-year-old this season.

Scherzer had been nothing short of phenomenal in his previous four starts, giving up four total earned runs on 11 hits. He pitched a complete game shutout, allowing one hit against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 14, and followed that with a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates six days later. Next were an eight-inning and 8 1/3-inning effort, in which two runs were allowed in each.

While Scherzer, who is 9-7 with a sterling 2.12 ERA, understandably receives the spotlight, there’s one other person who plays a unique role in his success. The person who gives him the pitching signs, frames the ball for him in the strike zone, and plays the role of psychologist (if and when needed).

That is, of course, Scherzer’s catcher, Wilson Ramos. In his sixth season with the Nationals, Ramos has caught several standout pitchers. When Scherzer signed his seven-year, $210 million mega-deal this offseason, he quickly developed a relationship with Ramos.

I’ve learned a lot from him. Right now, I love what we are doing. Before the game, during the game, we are talking about each hitter. That’s really important.

Wilson Ramos

"Since spring training, we’ve had really good communication," Ramos said. "At the beginning of spring, we started talking a lot. We’d go out and get dinner together and try to stay on the same page."

There are certainly some pitchers that would rather be alone on game day. That’s not the case with Scherzer. He is in constant communication with Ramos throughout the day.

"That’s the most important part, communication," Ramos said. "I’ve learned a lot from him. Right now, I love what we are doing. Before the game, during the game, we are talking about each hitter. That’s really important."

Most of the time, I try to call the game like he’d like me to. He likes to mix it a lot. He’s really smart. I try to be on the same page and let him be comfortable on the mound.

Wilson Ramos

Communication is the most important part in virtually any type of relationship, particularly between a catcher and pitcher. But it takes work to keep the discussion healthy. 

"Before the game, we are talking about the hitters," Ramos continued. "So we have to (discuss) what we will do with different hitters. (After) that process, during the game, I just pay attention to what we talked about before the game, and execute it. That’s the most important part, staying on the same page."

During Scherzer’s no-hitter, Ramos felt completely comfortable going up to Scherzer. The two would discuss each upcoming batter, because, as Ramos said, it is critical for them to constantly work together.

"Most of the time, I try to call the game like he’d like me to," Ramos said. "He likes to mix it a lot. He’s really smart. I try to be on the same page and let him be comfortable on the mound."

Of course, that doesn’t mean you directly bring up the no-hitter.

Wilson Ramos has hit eight home runs in 2015.

"If that happens, it’s better if we stay quiet," Ramos said. "We give him support at the plate, throw the runners out. I just try, inning by inning, to just say ‘Hey, good work. Keep it going, keep it going, keep it going.’ That’s all I can say to him during that process."

Ramos certainly helps out Scherzer, and the Nationals staff, in any way he can. Ramos has thrown out 13 runners attempting to steal a base, and ranks seventh in the league in caught stealing percentage, at 36.1 percent.

He also ranks 16th among catchers in the league in fielding percentage, at .993. Ramos has also stepped in on occasion as the oft-injured team’s cleanup hitter, and has eight home runs.

Ramos did admit he has yet to be rewarded for his efforts in Scherzer’s no-hitter.

"No, no, not yet," Ramos said with a smile when asked if Scherzer bought him a steak dinner. "I think we got plenty of time for that. It’s a long season, and we got a lot of days off. We’ll see what happens."