WASHINGTON -- When the Nationals signed Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract late in the 2015 offseason, it would have been hard to envision more production from him the first two seasons.
During Tuesday's 4-2 win over the D-backs, Scherzer added to his Major League-leading total with his 277th strikeout of the year, breaking the record he had set the previous year for most strikeouts in a single season in Nationals (2005-present) history.
The record-breaking strikeout was the last of his 10 over six innings -- Scherzer's 13th double-digit strikeout game of the season, also the most in the Majors and one of the reasons he is among the favorites to win the National League Cy Young award.
Scherzer leads the Majors in strikeouts and WHIP while leading National League pitchers in WAR, and picked up his 19th victory for voters still inclined to look at traditional stats.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker was certainly fired up when Anthony Rendon's three-run homer in the sixth put Washington ahead and put Scherzer in line to pick up the win, turning immediately to point and hug Scherzer in the dugout.
"Dusty was out of his mind, and if there's anybody that's going to lose their mind, I'll lose my mind with you," Scherzer said with a laugh. "That's what made it fun."
Baker has campaigned for his pitcher to win the Cy Young award, and he admitted his reasoning was a bit selfish considering he has never managed a pitcher who won the award.
"It depends on whatever the criteria is from the voters that are voting for him to be the Cy Young," Baker said before the game. "Is it strikeouts? Is it ERA? Is it victories? Is it amount of innings pitched? Is it how many games you pitched where you stopped a losing streak or your team's wins when you pitch? It's going to be a tight race. It's going to be a very tight race."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.