Max Scherzer becomes fifth ever with two career immaculate innings

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer keeps finding new ways to flirt with history.

In the Nationals' 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, Scherzer threw an immaculate inning, the second of his career. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, he is believed to be just the fifth pitcher in MLB history to record multiple immaculate innings.

Facing Johnny Field, Christian Arroyo and Daniel Robertson in the top of the sixth, Scherzer struck out all three on nine pitches.

"I honestly didn't know it happened," said Scherzer, who has won back-to-back Cy Young Awards and is one of 10 hurlers to win at least three Cy Youngs. "Then I walked off the field and I was like, wait a second, I think that was it. So yeah, that's cool."

His previous immaculate inning came against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 14, 2017, when he fanned Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr. By repeating the feat, Scherzer joins a select group that includes Baseball Hall of Famers Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

"Awesome," Scherzer said when informed about the historical context of his feat. "It's just one of those things, it just happened. Just executing pitches. It's one of those things where, hey, it happened. That's more to the preparation than anything, and knowing what Seve [catcher Pedro Severino] wanted behind the plate."

Scherzer's immaculate inning was the second in the majors this season. The Baltimore Orioles' Kevin Gausman also pulled the feat, needing nine pitches to strike out Cleveland's Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes and Bradley Zimmer on April 24.

The immaculate inning wasn't the only thing that stood out about Scherzer's performance. He threw 81 of 99 pitches for strikes, an 81.8 percent rate that is the highest of any starter this season and the best mark in any of Scherzer's 322 career starts (regular and postseason). He also recorded 25 first-pitch strikes (out of 28 hitters), tied for the second most in his career.

"I mean, that's pretty much as good as it gets," Nationals manager Davey Martinez said of Scherzer, who struck out 13 and walked none. "He was awesome tonight."

Aided by his immaculate inning, Scherzer became the majors' first 10-game winner, as he improved his record to 10-1 on the season. It's just the second time in his career that he has reached double-digit wins before the end of June. The previous time occurred in 2013, when Scherzer won his first 13 decisions during a season in which he went 21-3 for the Detroit Tigers and captured his first Cy Young Award.

Although Scherzer, who leads MLB in strikeouts and has a 1.95 ERA, is the front-runner to win yet another Cy Young, he came to the park Tuesday with a different kind of hardware in mind.

"I woke up this morning with an extra bounce in my step," said Scherzer, who on Monday donned a hockey sweater and helmet and, along with teammate Ryan Zimmerman, led the pregame festivities before the Washington Capitals' Game 4 Stanley Cup Final win over the Vegas Golden Knights.

With the victory, the Capitals took a 3-1 series lead and moved within a game of notching D.C.'s first major sports championship since the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl following the 1991 season.

A day later, Scherzer was still giddy about his high-profile cheerleading gig and the result that ensued.

"The way the Caps played, the fans, the energy at that stadium, everyone here in D.C. -- how could you not wake up with an extra bounce in your step?" he said. "I was itching to get out to the field and play. Good things happen when the whole city gets behind you."