It wasn't a fun season for the Washington Nationals. But it was a fun game for Max Scherzer on a cold Saturday night at Citi Field, as he became just the sixth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in one season with one of the most dominant efforts in major league history. Scherzer struck out 17 New York Mets, including nine in a row until Curtis Granderson popped out for the final out, in a 2-0 victory. The only baserunner reached on a throwing error in the sixth inning and deprived Scherzer of a perfect game.
Scherzer threw 109 pitches, 68 of them fastballs. Even in the late innings, he was simply throwing his heater past Mets hitters. In the bottom of the ninth, he struck out Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda swinging on 96 mph fastballs. His final pitch, the one Granderson popped out to third base, was clocked at 96.3 mph -- his third-fastest pitch of the night. The Mets swung at 60 pitches and missed 27 of them. Only one ball was hit hard all game. Here's Scherzer after the game.
Let's look at the historic nature of Scherzer's performance.
Max Scherzer is 1st pitcher to throw a no-hitter with at least 17 K and no walks.— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 4, 2015
The others with two no-hitters in a season:
Johnny Vander Meer, Reds, 1938 (consecutive)
Allie Reynolds, Yankees, 1951
Virgil Trucks, Tigers, 1952
Nolan Ryan, Angels, 1973
Roy Halladay, Phillies, 2010 (including one in the postseason)
As Katie Sharp tweeted, Scherzer's no-hitter on Saturday was particularly dominant, not just among this short list of pitchers with two no-hitters in a season but also among all no-hitters. In our trusty Game Score method, Scherzer's outing scored 104, the second-highest ever for a nine-inning game.
Scherzer's performance was just the 13th of 100 or higher in nine innings. Here are the six that scored 101 or better:
105 -- Kerry Wood, Cubs, May 6, 1998: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 20 SO
104 -- Max Scherzer, Nationals, Oct. 3, 2015: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 17 SO
102 -- Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, June 18, 2014: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 15 SO
101 -- Matt Cain, Giants, June 13, 2012: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 14 SO (perfect game)
101 -- Nolan Ryan, Angels, May 1, 1991: 9 IP, 0 H, 2 BB, 16 SO
101 -- Sandy Koufax, Dodgers, Sept. 9, 1965: 9 IP, 0 H, O BB, 14 SO (perfect game)
Like Scherzer, Kershaw was denied a perfect game only by a fielding error. Wood also hit a batter in his game, though hit batters aren't tabulated in Game Score, so he faced 29 batters that game.
Amazingly, Scherzer is one of the others with a 100 Game Score. He logged that in his one-hitter against the Brewers earlier this season, when he struck out 16. Yes, he's the only one with two 100s in one season (Ryan had three in his career, with two 100s and a 101).
In fact ...
Max Scherzer was a bloop single, an over-sized elbow pad, and a throwing error away from throwing three perfect games in a season.— Kazuto Yamazaki (@Kazuto_Yamazaki) October 4, 2015
That tweet isn't exactly accurate. He's right about the error, the elbow pad -- in Scherzer's first no-hitter, he hit Pittsburgh's Jose Tabata when he was one strike away from a perfect game -- and the bloop single in the game against the Brewers on June 14. Carlos Gomez broke up a perfect game in the seventh inning with this blooper that was a few inches from being caught. But Scherzer did walk a batter late in the eighth. Still, he was pretty close to not just three no-hitters but also three perfect games.
Overall, Scherzer had Game Scores of 104, 100 and 97 this season. The Baseball-Reference Play Index goes back to 1914. Only two others have had three Game Scores of 95-plus in one season: Ryan in 1990 (101 in 10 innings, 99 and 99) and Walter Johnson in 1918 (all three were extra-inning games, including an 18-inning shutout that registered a 120).
You can argue Scherzer had the best trio of games in one season of any pitcher ever (at least since 1914).
Unfortunately, in a season with those dramatics, the Nationals are also left with this:
A parlay of Harper wins MVP, Scherzer throws 2 no-hitters and the Nats get bounced with a week left would've fetched a nice price in March.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) October 4, 2015