Ausmus has had a front-row seat for K history

Fanned by Clemens, Wood as a player before managing vs. Scherzer

Ausmus has had a front-row seat for K history

WASHINGTON -- Brad Ausmus had seen this before.

As a young catcher in Detroit, he was the 18th of Roger Clemens' 20 strikeouts at Tiger Stadium on Sept. 18, 1996, though he also had one of Detroit's five hits off him.

As an Astros catcher, he had the sixth and 18th strikeouts Kerry Wood recorded in his record-tying performance at Wrigley Field on May 6, 1998.

His view of Max Scherzer's 20-strikeout performance on Wednesday night was a little different, as he watched from the visitors' dugout at Nationals Park, trying to manage the Tigers into an opportunity in the eventual 3-2 loss. He couldn't grab a bat and step to the plate against Scherzer, but he had more control over the game.

His appreciation was much the same.

"That's one of the most dominant performances I've ever come across," Ausmus said. "It wasn't quite as dominant as Kerry Wood, and it was more dominant than Clemens."

In Scherzer's case, Ausmus had a little more appreciation. He managed Scherzer in the hurler's final season in Detroit two years ago, part of a dream rotation down the stretch that included fellow American League Cy Young winners David Price and Justin Verlander. Ausmus saw the work ethic Scherzer put into his pitching.

"He's a very methodical, logical, almost a numbers-oriented thinker," Ausmus said, "and it obviously translates well."

He also saw a trait from Scherzer that lent itself to high-strikeout performances.

"He's got a swing-and-miss fastball, which is kind of rare," Ausmus said. "You don't see it a lot. Even guys that throw 95 mph, they don't really necessarily have a swing-and-miss fastball. He has one."

Scherzer got swings on his fastball on Wednesday. He also spotted it on the corners. It was working.

"What wasn't working? That's the easier question. Nothing," Ausmus said. "That's as good as I've seen him, and I had him for a year in Detroit."

It wasn't just Scherzer's dominant pitches that impressed Ausmus, but his ability to control his adrenaline, first pitching against his old squad, then eventually pitching with a record in sight.

"I knew in the ninth inning he'd have a little more adrenaline," Ausmus said. "You could bookend the game. At the beginning and end, the adrenaline really helped him, really energized him."

As an American League manager in a National League park, Ausmus had the challenge all series of picking one of his big hitters to sit with no designated hitter available. After Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera sat the first and second games, respectively, Wednesday was Nick Castellanos' turn. It left the AL batting leader on the bench for the start of the game, but it also gave Ausmus a chip to play late.

The timing was the tricky part. The Tigers' best opportunity for a big inning came in the seventh, when Victor Martinez's single and a Justin Upton double put runners at second and third with one out. With first base open and the bottom half of the order up, however, Ausmus expected Castellanos would be intentionally walked. Thus he kept Castellanos in reserve as Scherzer struck out James McCann and Anthony Gose.

"I wanted to use Nick in a spot where he could tie or win the game," Ausmus said. "I didn't want to use him just for the sake of using him."

But Castellanos was on deck to hit for Gose in the ninth inning when McCann grounded out to end the game with the potential tying run on first.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.