Oh, so close: Scherzer inches away from historic performance
Ace right-hander fans team-record 16 in 1-hitter vs. Brewers
By Brandon Curry
MILWAUKEE -- Not many Major League pitchers experience throwing late into what could be a perfect game. Even fewer are left with nine outs and a few inches from perfection. But Nationals starter Max Scherzer found himself there Sunday in Washington's 4-0 win over the Brewers.
The right-hander was dominant throughout, retiring the first 18 batters he faced before Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez blooped a broken-bat single into right field just over the outstretched glove of second baseman Anthony Rendon.
The hit gave Milwaukee its first baserunner of the day and proved to be the only hit against Scherzer.
"I thought it was just going to hang," Scherzer said of Gomez's hit. "I maybe thought there was a way for Rendon to get back there. It's just one of those things where it fell in. There's nothing you can do."
The two players who had the best chance of making a play on the ball were Rendon and right fielder Clint Robinson. Both players agreed that it was perfectly placed.
"I was shading up the middle, playing strong [to] pull," Rendon said. "It [stinks]. You don't want to be that guy."
"It was kind of in 'no-man's land,'" Robinson said. "It didn't have any height to it. I don't think any one of us could've got it."
Gomez even admitted it took some luck -- and surprisingly wasn't content with ending it.
"I got lucky, I got lucky," Gomez said. "I'm happy because I hit it, but not really because when a guy had 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."
Scherzer allowed just one more baserunner over the final two innings-- an eighth-inning walk to second baseman Scooter Gennett.
Scherzer finished with a career-high and Nationals single-game-record 16 strikeouts. Out of his 118 pitches, 85 were for strikes, 20 were first-pitch strikes, and he didn't reach a three-ball count until getting there twice in the eighth inning.
"I really felt good after about the second inning, when I was really executing the slider," Scherzer said. "I was executing my game plan. I had a good feel with the [catcher Jose Lobaton], too. We were in sync. I didn't really need to do too much other than just go with him."
Even with the near miss at perfection, Scherzer recognized his accomplishment and was satisfied with the victory.
"It takes luck [to get a perfect game]," Scherzer said. "Why would I be disappointed? To be able to throw a shutout against a Major League team, that's extremely tough to do. I understand the significance of throwing a complete-game shutout."
Brandon Curry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.