SAN FRANCISCO -- Max Scherzer set his world squarely back on its axis Wednesday night, overpowering the San Francisco Giants for nine innings to lead the Washington Nationals to a 3-1 triumph that sealed a three-game sweep.
Scherzer entered the game with a 2-4 record and a 5.52 ERA in six career starts against the Giants. The two-time Cy Young Award winner quickly rendered the Giants as helpless as most of his other opponents, retiring the first 10 batters he faced before finishing with an 11-strikeout, five-hitter in his first complete game of the season.
"When he's going like that, he's one of the best in the game," said Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, whose three-run homer in the first inning gave Scherzer all the support he needed.
Scherzer (6-3) threw his seventh career complete game and his first since May 11, 2016, against Detroit. Reflecting his superior command, he walked none and struck out 11 to record his 54th career double-digit strikeout effort -- the most among active pitchers.
Scherzer ultimately threw exactly 100 pitches, the fewest he has thrown in a nine-inning complete game in his career. His previous low in a complete game was 105 pitches .
"Because I was pounding the zone, I could tell they were wanting to come out and try to do damage on that first pitch," Scherzer said. "There was a lot of first-pitch contact tonight, and that's when you get those first-pitch outs that really save your pitch count and really makes you efficient."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Touched by greatness: Zimmerman shook hands with Willie Mays when the Giants legend visited the Washington clubhouse before the game. Maybe some of Mays' might rubbed off on him, though the Nats' first baseman proved more than capable of generating his own power as he rocketed Cain's first-pitch curveball over the left-field barrier.
"I was actually looking for sort of a fastball somewhere out over the plate and just reacted, honestly," said Zimmerman, who matched his home run total from last season in just his 50th game. "Kind of just hung up there and was something I can hit a fly ball with to get my guy in from third, and I put a good swing on it."
A little luck: The Giants likely would have been shut out if Washington left fielder Jayson Werth or center fielder Michael Taylor had been able to track Buster Posey's two-out popup in the fourth inning. The routine fly to left-center had a one percent hit probability, according to Statcast™, while Werth and Taylor had a catch probability of 99 and 98 percent, respectively.
"If we hadn't lost that fly ball in the sky -- that's a tough sky out there at that time of night -- [Scherzer] would probably shut them out," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.
"When he starts smelling the end of the game, he's better than anyone." -- Nationals catcher Matt Wieters, on Scherzer
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: The Nats continue their week-long stay in the Bay-Area with an off-day Thursday before they begin a three-game series with the A's on Friday night in Oakland at 10:05 p.m. ET. Stephen Strasburg will make his first career start against the A's.
Giants: San Francisco will observe a scheduled off-day Thursday before opening a three-game series against the Phillies on Friday at 4:05 p.m. PT. Left-hander Ty Blach, who has a 2.21 ERA as a starter with the exception of his three-inning, eight-run meltdown May 6 at Cincinnati, will start for the Giants.