Yes, it was the Orioles, and yes, there are only a limited number of ways to talk about this sort of thing, but Max Scherzer surgically picked apart a lineup so thoroughly that it almost doesn’t matter that the lineup was one of the league’s worst. The Nationals beat the Orioles 2-0 Wednesday night, on the back of eight innings of two-hit, 12-strikeout ball from Scherzer.
The supercut below offers a glimpse of his 12 punchouts, or as Nats play-by-play guy Bob Carpenter likes to call them, punchies:
There were some short and long-term milestones to be had here, like Scherzer notching his 150th career win and his eighth game this year with 10 or more strikeouts, achieving a 26.1 percent swing-and-miss rate on the season (the third-highest of his career), and outpacing each key stat from his previous two Cy Young years through 12 starts. More interesting than whether he will repeat this feat for a third season in a row, though, is that he could be pitching the best baseball of his life at age 33.
Aside from one hiccup in Miami last week, when he finishing the night with four earned runs and just four strikeouts through six innings, Scherzer has been neck-and-neck with Justin Verlander as not only the best mid-30s pitcher, but the best in all of baseball. His average fastball velocity somehow increased to 95.2 mph against Baltimore, his highest this season, and he maintained it late in the game, hitting 96 on his final pitch. This is all piling up to be one of those seasons in which a guy who peaked later than most makes his strongest bid for the Hall of Fame.
Save for Pedro Martinez, whose 2001 campaign was cut short due to a rotator-cuff injury—each of those names above Scherzer threw 300 strikeouts in their respective seasons. Any Nationals fan understands that injuries happen at the most shocking and inopportune times, but Scherzer is one of the few guys who’s been reliable at a position that’s often anything but; he’s made 30 or more starts in each of the last nine seasons, every year except for his truncated rookie campaign in 2008. There’s little to indicate that he’ll slow down.
Meanwhile, the Braves lost on Wednesday night, which means the Nationals are back in first place, where they were supposed to be all along.