Following pair of unprecedented gems, including no-hitter, Nats ace can accomplish even further rarities
By Andrew Simon
Max Scherzer already has put together perhaps the best pair of back-to-back starts in baseball history, and the Nationals right-hander will try to keep rolling when he faces the Phillies on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Scherzer's first 12 outings with the Nats produced a 2.13 ERA, but his last two have been truly special. First, there was the 16-strikeout one-hitter on June 14 at Milwaukee. Then, there was the no-hitter Saturday against Pittsburgh. In that game, Scherzer came within one pitch of a perfect game before hitting Jose Tabata. Between the two starts: 57 batters faced, 54 retired.
Scherzer's 197 combined game score over those outings (100, then 97) is the highest for consecutive nine-inning starts since at least 1914. He is the only pitcher in that span to post at least a 97 twice in a row, regardless of innings pitched.
When Scherzer takes the mound on Friday, he can help Washington extend its winning streak to a season-high seven. He also can extend Nats starting pitchers' streak of 41 1/3 scoreless innings, the fourth-longest of the expansion era (since 1961), according to Elias.
Here's a look at what's at stake for Scherzer on Friday, from an individual perspective:
• Johnny Vander Meer, famously, is the only pitcher in Major League history to throw back-to-back no-hitters, which he did for the Reds on June 11 and 15, 1938.
• Recent post-no-hitter performances have been a mixed bag, as one would expect. Back on June 14 against the D-backs, Giants rookie Chris Heston followed up his no-no by giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits over five innings. But last season, two pitchers authored impressive encores, with Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw both tossing eight scoreless frames. The last pitcher to follow a no-hitter with a shutout was the Phillies' Tommy Greene in 1991.
• Scherzer can become the first pitcher to throw three straight shutouts since the Phillies' Cliff Lee, from June 16-28, 2011. The only others to accomplish that feat in the past 20 years are the D-backs' Brandon Webb in 2007 and the Blue Jays' Roger Clemens in 1998. Lee also is the last pitcher with three consecutive complete games, though the Rays' James Shields did it the same month.
• No Nationals pitcher has thrown three straight complete games, and only one (Jordan Zimmermann last June 3-13) has put together three straight starts of at least eight innings. The last pitcher in franchise history with back-to-back-to-back complete games was Pedro Martinez for the 1997 Expos.
• No pitcher since at least 1914 has strung together three complete games with no more than one hit allowed. To find one who allowed two hits or fewer over nine-plus innings three times in a row, you have to go all the way back to 1916, when Eddie Plank of the St. Louis Browns did so, from Aug. 4-12. Plank surrendered only five total hits over those games and also notched a two-inning, hitless save during that stretch.
• Scherzer has the chance to reach double-digit strikeouts with no more than one walk for the third straight time. Only five pitchers have done that since 2000: Chris Archer (May 25-June 7), David Price (2014), Clayton Kershaw ('11), Johan Santana ('05, '06) and Curt Schilling (twice in '02).
• If Scherzer reaches a 90 game score, he would be the first pitcher to do that in three straight outings within the same season. The Reds' Jim Maloney accomplished it over two seasons, notching a 91 and 102 over his final two starts of 1964, then a 90 in his '65 debut.
• In fact, no pitcher has recorded at least an 85 three consecutive times since Clemens for the Blue Jays, from Aug. 20-30, 1998 (85, 99, 87). Schilling also did that for the Phillies to open that season (86, 87, 92).
• Obviously, it's difficult to keep a hot streak sizzling after back-to-back 90+ game scores. The last 10 pitchers to try, going back to 1971, averaged a 65.3 in their next outing. The most recent attempt came from the Mets' R.A. Dickey on June 24, 2012, against the Yankees. But after consecutive one-hitters with no earned runs, Dickey gave up five runs over six innings, for a 42 game score. The last pitcher to approach 90 again in such a situation was the Brewers' Teddy Higuera in 1987. Higuera followed a 10-inning, three-hit shutout and a one-hit shutout with a two-hit shutout (87 game score).
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.