Scherzer tied the strikeout record for a start of nine innings or fewer, joining Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens, who did it twice. Tom Cheney still holds the overall record of 21 strikeouts, but that came in a 16-inning outing for the Washington Senators against the Orioles in 1962.
Here are some facts and figures to know from Scherzer's historic night:
• He became the first to record 20 strikeouts since Johnson did it for the D-backs against the Reds in Phoenix on May 8, 2001, and the first righty since Wood for the Cubs against the Astros at Wrigley Field on May 6, 1998. Scherzer had a shot at a 21st strikeout, but Detroit's James McCann managed to hit into a force play for the final out of the game.
• Scherzer and Johnson are the only pitchers with both a 20-strikeout game and a no-hitter, and both have two no-nos. Scherzer threw both of his for Washington last season, while Johnson threw one in 1990 for Seattle and one in 2004 for Arizona (a perfect game).
• All five nine-inning, 20-strikeout performances have come with no walks.
• Where Scherzer rose above the pack was in throwing 96 of his 119 pitches for strikes, giving him almost as many K's as pitches called balls (23). In the four previous games with 20 strikeouts, nobody threw fewer total pitches, fewer balls or a higher percentage of strikes.
In his 20-strikeout game, Johnson threw 124 pitches and 92 strikes. Wood had 122 pitches and 84 strikes, while Clemens had 151 pitches and 101 strikes in his second 20-K performance on Sept. 18, 1996, for Boston against Detroit at Tiger Stadium. In Clemens' first 20-K game, for Boston against Seattle on April 29, 1986, at Fenway Park, he threw 97 of 138 pitches for strikes.
• Scherzer's was the fourth 20-strikeout performance out of five to fall in a 13-day window on the calendar between April 29 and May 11. The only exception was Clemens' second one.
Congratulations to @Max_Scherzer on an impressive and dominant performance tonight. Welcome to the club! #Filthy
• The 33 swings and misses Scherzer induced are tied for second in a game over the past 15 seasons, according to ESPN. Clayton Kershaw got 35 whiffs during a 2015 start, and Jeremy Bonderman managed 33 back in 2004.
• Scherzer's most-dominant pitch was his four-seam fastball. He threw it 62 times (52.1 percent of his total), 51 times for a strike (an 82.3-percent rate), and used it to get 18 whiffs on 38 swings. He also got 10 missed swings with his slider (37 total pitches) and five with his changeup (13).
• In terms of strikeouts, Scherzer got 14 of the swinging variety and six looking. Eleven came on fastballs, five were on sliders and four were on changeups.
• On the other hand, Scherzer's two runs and six hits allowed both were highs for a 20-strikeout performance of no more than nine innings. Johnson allowed one run on three hits, and Wood threw a one-hit shutout, while Clemens allowed one run on three hits, then completed a five-hit shutout. Scherzer also served up more homers (two) than in the other four starts combined (one, by Clemens).
• How's this for coincidences? Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who was in the visitors' dugout on Wednesday at Nationals Park, was Detroit's starting catcher for Clemens' second 20-strikeout game, striking out once, as well as Houston's starting catcher for Wood's game (two strikeouts).
• Scherzer broke Bill Gullickson's franchise record of 18 strikeouts, which he did for the Expos against the Cubs on Sept. 10, 1980. In terms of Nationals history only (since 2005), Scherzer already has the top three strikeout performances, having also racked up 17 in his no-hitter last Oct. 3 against the Mets and 16 in a one-hitter against the Brewers last June 14.
• Scherzer is now the only active player to have multiple starts with 17 or more strikeouts, while Jake Peavy is the only other to have multiple starts of 16 or more. Only Nolan Ryan (eight), Johnson (seven) and Clemens (three) have more games with 17-plus all-time, while Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax and Bob Feller also had two apiece.
• Since 2008, when Scherzer debuted in the Majors, his 37 games with double-digit strikeouts trails only Kershaw's 46.
• Could Scherzer's performance be a good sign for his fortunes, and the fortunes of the Nationals, this season? Following 20-strikeout performances, Clemens won the 1986 AL Cy Young and MVP awards, Wood was the '98 NL Rookie of the Year, and Johnson was the 2001 NL Cy Young winner, his third of four in a row. In terms of team performance, the '86 Red Sox and '01 D-backs made the World Series, with Arizona winning, while the '98 Cubs got to the postseason with 90 victories. Only the '96 Red Sox fell short, winning 85 games with Clemens posting a modest 3.63 ERA.
• More people can say they saw Scherzer's feat in person than any other 20-strikeout game. There were 35,695 people at Nationals Park on Wednesday night, which is many more than were in attendance for Johnson (29,817), Wood (15,758), or Clemens (13,414 for his first and 8,779 for his second).
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.