WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals' media relations staff put out a list on paper this past week of Max Scherzer's accolades this year in effort to drum up support for a possible National League Cy Young Award.
It was a long list.
The right-handed starter, who won the Cy Young with the Detroit Tigers in 2013, will aim for his 20th win of the season on Sunday in the regular-season finale against the Miami Marlins. He has struck out at least 10 batters in a game 13 times this season and leads the NL in strikeouts with 277.
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The St. Louis native fanned 20 batters on May 11 against the Detroit Tigers and nine times in the last two years he has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He got his 19th win on Tuesday when he beat the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“That's what we're playing for,” Scherzer said of the home-field edge, which the Nationals wrapped up Saturday. “I know the 19 wins, yada, yada yada, but the most important thing is the team wins. Would love to have Game 5 here at Nationals Park facing the Dodgers. In a short series, home-field advantage matters.”
But Scherzer has a penchant for giving up homers — he has allowed 29 — and several Marlins have gone deep against him.
Justin Bour is hitting .190 in 21 at-bats against him with a homer. Dee Gordon is batting .292 in 24 trips with one homer. Outfielder Christian Yelich, closing in on 100 RBIs for the season, is hitting .333 with two homers in 15 at-bats against Scherzer. Marcell Ozuna has two homers against the pitcher in 19 at-bats and is hitting .263.
Scherzer will aim to be one of the few pitchers to get his 20th win on the final day of the season. One pitcher who did that was Scott McGregor, who won his 20th on the last day of the 1980 season for the Baltimore Orioles against the Cleveland Indians.
On the last regular-season game for the Nationals in 2014, Jordan Zimmerman threw the first no-hitter in franchise history, against the same Marlins. Yelich made the last out of the game as his liner was caught in left center by Steven Souza Jr., then the Washington left fielder.
Scherzer is 19-7 with a 2.82 ERA this season for the Nationals. He will also be making a tuneup for Game 1 of the NLDS on Oct. 7 against the Dodgers, though Washington — as is custom — had not made an official announcement for its rotation.
The Dodgers have announced their first three starters will be Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda.
Washington secured the home-field edge in the NLDS as the Dodgers lost Saturday and Washington won 2-1 over Miami.
“I feel great any time you get home-field advantage,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “You get the first two games here and it could be very important. It's not necessary, but I'd rather have it here than to travel out there.”
The Marlins starter will be right-hander Tom Koehler (9-13, 4.15 ERA), who is no stranger to the Nationals. He is 4-8 with a 4.18 ERA in 13 career starts against Washington, including 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts this year.
Bryce Harper has owned Koehler, with an average of .367 against him with an amazing six homers in just 30 at-bats. Ben Revere has also done well against the Stony Brook product, with an average of .440 in 25 trips.
Koehler was part of a rotation that included Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident Sept. 25. They spoke about fatherhood just days before the pitcher died.
“That was the last time we talked,” Koehler told a Florida paper. “He was wishing me luck and excited about my daughter being born, not because he had to. He didn't have to come up. He truly cared about it. That was something special.”