Scherzer flirts with perfection in blanking Crew

Scherzer flirts with perfection in blanking Crew

MILWAUKEE -- Max Scherzer was one broken bat from history during a dominant, one-hit shutout Sunday that carried the Nationals to a 4-0 win over the Brewers at Miller Park.

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Brewers batters went 18-up, 18-down against the 30-year-old right-hander before Carlos Gomez broke his bat but got just enough of Scherzer's 70th pitch -- a 96 mph fastball -- to bloop a single into shallow right field leading off the seventh inning, eliciting an ovation from 34,964 appreciative fans. Scherzer permitted only one other baserunner on a Scooter Gennett walk in the eighth and set a Nationals record with 16 strikeouts in the second complete game and shutout of his career.

Scherzer sets new career-high

"I thought he was in complete control from the first pitch," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "They're an aggressive swinging club that he was able to get ahead on and finish. Really nice performance."

While Scherzer cruised, Brewers rookie Taylor Jungmann battled through his Miller Park debut. Jungmann limited the damage to two runs, but needed 105 pitches for five innings, allowing seven mostly well-placed hits, with two walks and two critical wild pitches.

Jungmann's five strikeouts

"I think we're going to have another opportunity [against Scherzer] and I'm happy to face guys like that because I know I faced one of the best pitchers in baseball," Gomez said. "He's competitive and I am too. I'm excited every time I have to face a guy like that."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
A gem, blemished: In 59 seasons of Major League Baseball in Milwaukee, there has never been a perfect game pitched here. Gomez kept it that way when he blooped that single to right field. Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon was closest to the ball, but it fell past his outstretched arm for a clean hit. More >

"I got lucky," said Gomez, who added, "I mean, I don't enjoy it. I would enjoy it if I hit a real base hit."

Strikeout machine: When Scherzer struck out pinch-hitter Jason Rogers leading off the ninth inning, it gave him a career-high 15 strikeouts, setting a record for the current edition of the Washington Nationals (2005-present). Stephen Strasburg held the previous mark since striking out 14 Pirates batters on June 8, 2010. Scherzer then retired Gomez one batter later for his 16th and final strikeout. More >

"I really felt good after about the second inning, when I was really executing the slider," Scherzer said. "I was really executing my game plan. I had a good feel with [Jose Lobaton], too. We were in sync. I didn't really need to do too much other than just go with him."

Scherzer's 15th strikeout

Replaypalooza: Credit Brewers manager Craig Counsell for an assist on each of Jungmann's first two outs on Sunday, part of a 26-pitch, scoreless first inning. Counsell challenged a pair of safe calls -- one at first base and another at second -- and won both times after reviews of less than a minute apiece. According to the rule, a manager can challenge as many times as he likes, as long as he keeps winning.

Lind throws out Espinosa

"Thank God for replay," Counsell said. "It would have been a tough inning [without it]. I think that's a pretty good example of why this has been a successful initiative. The game could have easily just been over in the first inning without a replay system."

Gennett throws out Rendon

On the board: Denard Span created and scored the only run Washington would need. Span led off the third inning with a ground-ball single to center field, proceeded to steal second base and then moved to third after first baseman Danny Espinosa's single. Five pitches later, Span would essentially seal the game, scoring on Rendon's sacrifice fly to left field.

Rendon's sacrifice fly

QUOTABLE
"I think the great pitchers have this gear, the cruise-control gear and then the gear they go to when it counts or it matters. … That's what I think the really great ones are able to do. They're able to go out and pitch at this effort level that's kind of the mid-game effort level, and then when the situation calls for it -- any situation, they know when it calls for it -- they kind of elevate their game. That's your challenge is to be ready for that. Because when a guy's throwing 92 or 93 [mph] and then when you get into a big spot and got 97, it's not easy for a hitter." -- Counsell, on Scherzer

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Just how dominant was Scherzer on Sunday? Nationals outfielders could have lounged in the dugout until the Brewers' 15th batter of the game, Gennett, lifted a 96 mph fastball to left fielder Michael Taylor for the final out of the fifth inning. It was the first ball hit past Washington's infield. No Brewers batter found himself in a 2-0 count against Scherzer until Ryan Braun with one out in the seventh inning. When the next batter, Adam Lind, smacked a foul ball into the seats on the third-base side, it marked the Brewers' first truly hard-hit baseball. The Nationals didn't require more than routine defensive effort until the eighth inning, when shortstop Ian Desmond had to charge hard to throw out Jean Segura on a soft bouncer. Segura was the first Brewers batter to reach a three-ball count.

When Scherzer retired Gerardo Parra on a groundout to end the game, he became only the third pitcher to complete a shutout with no more than one hit, no more than one walk and at least 16 strikeouts. The others were the Cubs' Kerry Wood on May 6, 1998 against the Astros (in Wood's 20-strikeout game) and the Angels' Nolan Ryan on July 9, 1972 against the Red Sox.

Scherzer's finishes shutout

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: Washington will make its way to Tampa Bay, where Gio Gonzalez will toe the rubber against the Rays on Monday. The left-hander has faced the Rays just once since transitioning to the N.L., allowing two runs in six innings while striking out four in a 5-2 win. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

Brewers: Counsell was a Brewers player in 2008 when the team dismissed Ned Yost with only 12 regular-season games remaining, and now the two will square off as opposing managers for a two-game series against the Royals at Miller Park. It's Yost's first regular-season return to Milwaukee. Kyle Lohse will pitch the opener against Edinson Volquez on Monday at 7:10 p.m. CT.

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Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. Brandon Curry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.