When he's on, there are few pitchers on this planet that can match Max Scherzer's dominance. He pitched two no-hitters in 2015, even tossing a zero-walk, one-hitter for fun. He's had 24 10-plus strikeout games.
On Wednesday night against the Tigers, Scherzer pulled off a feat more rare than any of those: He struck out 20 batters, tying the single-game, nine-inning record held by Kerry Wood, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson.
He needed just 119 pitches, with a full 96 of them going for strikes.
Max Scherzer is the only pitcher in the history of the game to throw as many as 96 strikes in fewer than 125 pitches. Needed 119. Whoa.- Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) May 12, 2016
Batters whiffed 33 times, flailing more wildly against his fastballs, sliders and changeups than those inflatable balloon men outside of used car lots. If dominance is what you were after, Scherzer provided it.
To highlight that, please enjoy six of Scherzer's nastiest strike threes.
J.D. Martinez - Strikeout No. 1
While this at-bat may not have been Scherzer at his most dominant, since it was his first strikeout, it deserves a place on the list. Especially as Martinez managed to work the count to nine full pitches before finally succumbing to Scherzer's Statcast™-measured 97.2 mph fastball.
If you were watching this as it happened, you probably had no idea that magic was just a few short hours away. That would soon change.
Ian Kinsler - No. 7
To really get a taste of just how dominant Scherzer's stuff was, take a look at Kinsler's strikeout in the top of the third. Not only could Kinlser not lay off the 97-mph fastball, but thanks to 10 inches of arm-side run on the ball, the second baseman was powerless to help himself even as the pitch hit him.
Anthony Gose - No. 15
With two runners on in the top of the seventh and the Nationals clinging to a 2-1 lead, Scherzer needed to get through the inning to keep his team on top and have a chance at the record. Scherzer got James McCann looking on a fastball, and then Gose came to the plate.
After striking out Gose with a perfectly placed changeup on the outside corner in the fifth inning, Scherzer finished him off with another one. This time, he upped the gravity coefficient and got it to dive into the dirt.
Jose Iglesias - No. 16
After Iglesias homered and flew out in his first two at-bats, he was the only starter not named Victor Martinez yet to strike out. That changed in his third at-bat when Scherzer got Iglesias looking on an absolutely gorgeous slider that just nipped the top of the inside corner.
You can't place pitches better than that.
Miguel Cabrera - No. 19
Using fastballs to strike out Cabrera twice earlier in the game, Scherzer kept at it in the ninth. Despite having blown past 100 pitches, Scherzer managed to find a little extra strength and threw not just his hardest fastball of the night, but his fastest of the season. Statcast measured this one at 98.1 mph.
Justin Upton - No. 20
Of course, we couldn't leave out the final piece in Scherzer's masterpiece. Having struck out Upton with three straight sliders in the second inning, Scherzer went back to the breaking ball here. Setting up the outfielder with two fastballs that Upton fouled off, Scherzer dropped his slider down in the zone on the next pitch and Upton was toast.
That's 20 and a share of one of the most difficult single-game achievements in baseball. Of course, if those six GIFs weren't enough, feel free to watch all 20 strikeouts in just 20 seconds below: