Carlos Gomez spoils Scherzer’s no-hitter bid in Brewers’ loss to Nationals
MILWAUKEE — If Carlos Gomez hadn’t broken his bat on a flare to right field in the top of the seventh inning Sunday, Max Scherzer’s performance against the Milwaukee Brewers may have been historic.
He’ll have to settle for dominant instead.
Overpowering the Brewers from start to finish, Scherzer delivered arguably one of the best pitching performances in recent memory. The right-hander set a Nationals record with 16 strikeouts and allowed just one hit and one walk in Washington’s 4-0 shutout of Milwaukee at Miller Park.
"It was pretty nasty," Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett said. "I really haven’t seen anything like it before. Not a whole lot straight. Didn’t give us a whole lot middle-middle to hit. He stayed on the corners and executed all of his pitches."
Scherzer retired the first 18 batters he faced on just 67 pitches, striking out 11 through six perfect innings.
The Brewers were completely overmatched. It felt as if Scherzer was going to throw a perfect game or a no-hitter unless one of Milwaukee’s players found a way to bloop in a single or reach on an infield hit.
That’s exactly what happened for Gomez leading off the top of the seventh.
With Washington leading 4-0, Gomez flared a 96 mph fastball from Scherzer just over the glove of leaping Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon for a single.
"I got lucky, I got lucky," Gomez said. "I’m happy because I hit it (enough) but not really because when a guy has a game like that . . . and stuff like that, I mean I don’t enjoy it. I would enjoy it if I hit a real base hit, because he dealt, he pitched unbelievable. He’s one of the best pitchers and probably the best pitcher that I’ve ever faced.
"He pitched a really good game today, and I can say I don’t enjoy that base hit in the seventh. Because a game like that, if you hit it hard it’s different."
Had Gomez not broken his bat on the swing, the ball may have carried to right fielder Clint Robinson for an easy catch.
"I put some hair on (the fastball to Gomez)," Scherzer said. "I was not letting up on it, he was able to get a good swing on it, kept a level plane through it and was able to get it in there. It takes some luck to be able to throw a no-hitter, perfect game, so this proves that.
"I thought it was just going to hang. Maybe there was a way for Rendon to get back there. But it just fell in, nothing you can do."
Scherzer recovered to get three quick outs to strand Gomez at first in the seventh. His most laborsome inning came in the eighth, as he needed 23 pitches to work around a one-out walk to Gennett.
Of the 119 pitches Scherzer threw Sunday, 86 were strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced and got the Brewers to swing and miss 27 times. Scherzer only had two three-ball counts, both of which came in the eighth inning.
"Scherzer was just tough," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "You felt like every hitter was 0-2. He threw quality pitches. There were very few mistakes.
"First seven innings, I didn’t really see any mistakes, any pitches to hit. Or very, very few pitches to hit. You go up there trying to be aggressive and he makes a really quality pitch. Your hat’s off to him. He was excellent today."
Scherzer is the sixth pitcher all-time and the first since Mark Prior in 2003 to record 16 or more strikeouts against the Brewers. The only other pitcher to strike out at least 16 batters in a one-hitter against Milwaukee was Curt Schilling in a 2-0 Arizona Diamondbacks victory at Miller Park on April 7, 2002.
On Sept. 14, 2002, Randy Johnson threw a three-hit shutout with 17 strikeouts in a 5-0 Diamondbacks win over the Brewers in Arizona.
Scherzer was equally as dominant Sunday. A Washington defender didn’t even have to make a semi-difficult play on a ball Sunday until Ian Desmond charged a slow grounder hit by Jean Segura to start the eighth.
"I just felt like I was able to really get my slider going against the right-handed hitters," Scherzer said. "I was able to execute it in the zone and out of the zone, and (Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton) was back there calling a really great game for me.
"He did a great job of knowing when to sequence it, a lot of times I was just going with him and it was just working. I felt like that was the reason I was able to have so much success today."
In the first year of a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals, Scherzer has a 1.93 ERA through 13 starts. The 2013 American League Cy Young award winner had allowed four earned runs in consecutive starts before tossing his second career shutout Sunday.
Brewers rookie right-hander Taylor Jungmann battled to get through five innings with just two runs allowed, as Milwaukee stayed within 2-0 until Clint Robinson doubled home a pair for the Nationals with two outs in the seventh.
"I was able to execute every pitch, for the most part, where I wanted to," Scherzer said. "And when you’re able to do that and you’ve got a good catcher back there who can sequence it, and you’ve got some good plays back there and some timely hits, it’s a recipe how to win a ballgame."
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