Right-hander joins rare company with back-to-back masterpieces
By Paul Casella
Though Max Scherzer came up one batter shy in his bid for perfection on Saturday, the Nationals ace still managed to complete the no-hitter in a 6-0 win over the Pirates -- and thus enter the conversation for the best two-start stretch in Major League history.
That conversation, of course, usually begins with former Reds starter Johnny Vander Meer, who famously hurled back-to-back no-hitters in June 1938. That said, Vander Meer walked 11 batters in those two outings, including eight in hist history-making second no-hitter.
As for Scherzer, he made plenty of history of his own with Saturday's no-hitter, which came on the heels of a 16-strikeout, one-hit shutout on Sunday against the Brewers.
Scherzer's pure dominance over his last two starts has put him in some elite company. The following is a list of 11 facts and pieces of trivia surrounding Scherzer's incredible two-start stretch.
• Scherzer's combined game score of 197 from his last two starts (100 last Sunday and 97 today) is the highest for consecutive nine-inning starts since at least 1914. In fact, Scherzer is the first pitcher in that same span to post a game score of 97 or higher in back-to-back starts, regardless of outing length.
• Scherzer became the 13th pitcher in Major League history to lose a perfect game with two outs in the ninth. The last such outing came on Sept. 6, 2013, when Giants right-hander Yusmeiro Petit retired the first 26 hitters he faced before serving up a two-out single to Arizona pinch-hitter Eric Chavez.
• Out of those 13 pitchers to lose a perfecto with two outs in the ninth, Scherzer is one of three to still finish off a no-hitter. The other two were Milt Pappas of the Cubs in 1972 and George Wiltse of the Giants in 1908. Pappas issued a two-out walk then retired the next Padres batter to close out the no-no, while Wiltse accomplished the same feat as Scherzer in hitting the 27th batter with a pitch before eventually finishing off a 10-inning no-hitter against the Phillies.
• As for the last pitcher whose only blemish was one hit batsman, that honor belongs to Kevin Brown. Pitching for the Marlins on June 10, 1997, Brown retired the first 23 hitters he faced before plunking Giants right fielder Marvin Benard with two outs in the eighth. He retired each of the next four hitters he faced to finish off the no-hitter.
• Scherzer is the third pitcher since at least 1914 to follow up a one-hitter by tossing a no-hitter. Jim Tobin completed the feat for the 1944 Braves by pitching a one-hit shutout against the Phillies on April 23 then hurling a no-hitter against the Dodgers on April 27. The other such case came in 1925 when Dazzy Vance of the Brooklyn Robins worked a one-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks against the Phillies on Sept. 8 then held those same Phillies hitless just five days later. He finished his no-no with nine strikeouts and one walk -- and one unearned run -- in a 10-1 victory.
• Building off that last one, Scherzer and Vance are the only starters since 1914 to allow two or fewer baserunners in back-to-back complete games of at least nine innings. Scherzer allowed two in Sunday's gem, while holding the Pirates to one on Saturday.
• Scherzer's 26 strikeouts over the last two games -- 16 last Sunday and 10 in Saturday's no-no -- are tied with Randy Johnson (1998) and Hideo Nomo (1995) for the fourth most total strikeouts in back-to-back shutouts since 1914. The only players with more combined whiffs in consecutive shutouts are Ron Guidry (29 in 1978), Dwight Gooden (27 in 1984) and Karl Spooner (27 in 1954).
• Scherzer is the second pitcher this season, joining Giants rookie Chris Heston, to throw a no-hitter in which the only baserunners reached via a hit by pitch. Prior to Heston and Scherzer both completing the feat 11 days apart, it hadn't happened previously since 1997. It had also never happened multiple times in the same season since at least 1914.
• Making Scherzer's run all the more impressive is the fact that the 30-year-old ace had recorded only one complete game in his first 210 career starts before going the distance in each of the last two. His only complete game prior to last Sunday came when he fired a three-hit shutout as a member of the Tigers on June 12, 2014, against the White Sox.
• Scherzer's now-teammate Jordan Zimmermann racked up an identical 10 strikeouts while also facing one over the minimum in his Sept. 28 no-hitter last year. Zimmermann's only misstep came on a fifth-inning walk, though he also let another runner reach on a dropped third strike before immediately picking him off.
• Not only did Scherzer hold the Pirates hitless on Saturday, but he actually out-hit Pittsburgh on his own thanks to his third-inning single. That marks the fourth straight time that a pitcher throwing a no-hitter in a National League ballpark also picked up a hit in the process. In fact, each of the previous three -- Heston, Zimmermann and Tim Lincecum -- recorded two hits in their no-hitters.
Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.