MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Tigers tip their caps to Scherzer

Tigers tip their caps to Scherzer

WASHINGTON -- Not only were they edged, 3-2, at Nationals Park on Wednesday night, the Tigers were on the wrong side of history, as Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer became the fourth pitcher in Major League history to strike out at least 20 batters in a nine-inning outing.

Scherzer fanned the side four times, while five Tigers -- Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Anthony Gose and James McCann -- struck out three times. Scherzer had at least two strikeouts in an inning eight times.

"He threw everything," Cabrera said. "He got 20 strikeouts today. That's special. How many times do you see it in the big leagues? Five times. How many years have we played this game? Today was different. It was special. I've never seen him throw the ball like that."

This was also the first time Scherzer faced his former team since signing with the Nationals last year. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus felt Scherzer was amped up facing Detroit, starting with the first pitch.

"He was dominating out of the gate, quite frankly," Ausmus said. "When he was on the mound, he had a little extra adrenaline push facing his old teammates. It was one of the more dominant performances I've ever come across."

Scherzer acknowledged it was emotional for him to face the Tigers for the first time.

"Tonight, facing a former team, I know all those guys, we've been catching up over the past couple days," Scherzer said. "Tonight was an emotional game. Facing a former team and all those guys, I have so much respect for them and how they play the game and how they compete.

"I really think the world of how they go out there and play the game, and so to have a game like this against that caliber of hitters on their side, that really puts a feather in my cap, because I really respect and really admire how they go about the game."

Scherzer discusses his 20 K's

Though Scherzer was at 18 strikeouts going to the ninth inning, Ausmus wasn't thinking about Scherzer setting a record. He was thinking about winning the game. And after J.D. Martinez hit a solo homer to bring the Tigers within a run, the dugout was "re-energized," according to Ausmus.

Martinez's solo homer

"You are one run away and you have your three, four, five hitters coming up," Ausmus said.

But after J.D. Martinez's homer, only Victor Martinez was able to get on base in the ninth before McCann ended the game by grounding out to third baseman Anthony Rendon.

"Max was good, as always," said Victor Martinez, who had three hits. "We know who we are facing. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. It was going to be a really good game. We ended up on the wrong side. I wasn't surprised when he came out for the ninth inning. The Nationals have a really good one out there."

Mound counterpart Jordan Zimmermann, who pitched seven solid innings but took the loss, couldn't help but tip his cap to Scherzer.

"There are times when he adds extra gear, focuses and dials it in," Zimmermann said.

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002. He writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time and can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.