Nationals’ Scherzer dominates Mets for second no-hitter of year
NEW YORK — Max Scherzer says he can get even better.
The Washington Nationals ace threw one of the most dominant games in baseball history, pitching his second no-hitter of the season and striking out a team-record 17, and then vowed he wasn’t done.
"I still have room for improvement," he said.
Try telling that to the NL East champion New York Mets after Scherzer totally shut them down in a 2-0 win Saturday night that completed a doubleheader sweep.
"He was great, we were bad," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "So when you pitch as good as he does, it’s tough to take good swings. He made all the pitches he had to make. He was very, very good."
Only one batter reached base against Scherzer, and that came when third baseman Yunel Escobar bounced a throw for an error on Kevin Plawecki’s leadoff grounder in the sixth inning.
No one came close to a hit, and Scherzer struck out nine straight batters before Curtis Granderson lofted an easy popup to Escobar to end it on his 109th pitch.
The All-Star righty became just the sixth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in a year, and the first since Roy Halladay in 2010 — the former Phillies ace had one in the regular season and another in the playoffs.
"These things are special," Scherzer said. "To do it twice in one season, my gosh, it doesn’t seem possible."
Working quickly on a brisk, blustery night at Citi Field, Scherzer (14-12) added to the no-hitter he threw against Pittsburgh on June 20, when he came within one strike of a perfect game before hitting Jose Tabata.
Johnny Vander Meer, who pitched two in a row, Nolan Ryan, Virgil Trucks and Allie Reynolds also threw a pair in the same season.
"To throw a no-hitter sometimes it takes a little luck," Scherzer said. "I was able to execute all four of my pitches whether I was behind in the count or ahead in the count."
The 17 strikeouts tied Ryan for the most in a no-hitter, STATS said. Overall, the teams combined for 35 strikeouts, a big league record for a nine-inning game; the previous mark was 31 set by Texas and Seattle in 1997.
For good measure, Scherzer also outhit the Mets, lining a single off ace Matt Harvey.
The Mets lost their fifth in a row, having dropped the opener 3-1. The skid cost them home-field advantage in the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
New York and Los Angeles are among four teams in major league history to make the playoffs after getting no-hit twice in one season, according to STATS. The others were the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays and 1917 Chicago White Sox, who won the World Series.
Scherzer pitched the seventh no-hitter in the majors this year, including one by San Francisco rookie Chris Heston at Citi Field on June 9.
This is Scherzer’s first season with the Nationals after the 2013 AL Cy Young winner left Detroit and signed a $210 million, seven-year deal as a free agent.
In a season that has spiraled downward for the Nationals, the gems by Scherzer have been highlights. This also marked the second straight year a Washington pitcher came up big late — Jordan Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter in Nationals’ history on the final day of the regular season in 2014.
At times, Scherzer looked as if he was simply playing catch with Wilson Ramos. Wherever Ramos put his catcher’s mitt, Scherzer seemed to hit it.
"I trusted my catcher," Scherzer said. "There were a lot of times he called some pitches I wasn’t sure about. I trusted him and it worked we were in sync."
Always animated, Scherzer pumped his fist after some strikeouts, stalked around the mounds and sometimes seemed to be talking to himself for encouragement.
Scherzer took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning for the fifth time this year. On Plawecki’s grounder, Escobar’s throw bounced and first baseman Clint Robinson couldn’t corral it.
"I didn’t want the ball to get by," Robinson said.
The Mets rested many of the regulars. In the ninth, they sent up pinch-hitters Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda to begin the inning and both struck out swinging. Granderson’s soft pop finished it.
Scherzer celebrated with his teammates on the mound, and a beer shower in the clubhouse followed.
Granderson hit one of the very few hard balls off Scherzer, lining out to second baseman Dan Uggla in the fourth.
Harvey (13-8) lost despite allowing just one unearned run and four hits in six innings with 11 strikeouts.
The Nationals won the opener when Bryce Harper hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth off Addison Reed (3-3). It was Harper’s 42nd homer. Rafael Martin (2-0) got one out as the Nationals ended a six-game skid against the Mets. Felipe Rivero worked the ninth for his second save.
Nationals: Harper was heavily bandaged in ice after being hit by Noah Syndergaard’s fastball and didn’t play the second game. "Like he threw it through me," Harper said. No word yet on whether he’ll be able to play Sunday.
Mets: LHP Steven Matz got an injection for his sore back and "hopefully that helps him a lot," Mets manager Terry Collins said. The 24-year-old rookie is 4-0. He missed two months because of a partial muscle tear on his left side earlier this season, and hasn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 24. The Mets would like him to start against the Dodgers; he could get a tune-up next week in the instructional league.
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (4-7, 4.63) is 3-0 in five career games at Citi Field.
Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.60) starts vs. Washington for the sixth time this season. He’s 2-2 with a 3.26 ERA in those outings.
Harper has 99 RBIs. And going into the final game, he leads Miami’s Dee Gordon by the slimmest of margins in the NL batting race: Harper is at .330754, Gordon is at .330606.