Washington Nationals' Max Scherzer flirts with no-hitter in win

By David Driver, he Sports Xchange
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON -- On June 20 right-hander Max Scherzer came within one out of a perfect game, settling for a no-hitter against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.

But until Monday the veteran had not won again at Nationals Park, going 0-4 with four no-decisions.


He broke that skid in glorious fashion, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals ended the home portion of their frustrating season with a 5-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds in a makeup game from a July 8 rainout.

Scherzer (13-12) did not allow a hit until catcher Tucker Barnhart lined a clean single to left with one in the eighth. Later in the inning left fielder Scott Schumaker had an RBI single to break up the shutout bid.


"I thought he was going to do it again," Washington manager Matt Williams said of a possible no-hitter. "He pitched really well. The most important thing for him is fastball down and away to right-handed hitters. He was really special."

The first-year National struck out 10 batters and gave up two hits with three walks in eight innings and also had two hits at the plate. Veteran lefty Matt Thornton pitched the ninth for the Nationals.

"I was getting some luck. Our guys made some great plays," said Scherzer, noting the diving catch by left fielder Tyler Moore in the third inning. "I thought it had the makings of" a no-hitter.

In his last start he allowed seven hits, including two homers, to the Orioles.

"I really felt today I had much more composure," Scherzer said. "Today I was a lot more composed. We did a great job of mixing and matching. I thought that was a big reason we had success" throwing to catcher Wilson Ramos.

It was the second year in a row that a Washington pitcher had a gem in the regular-season home finale. Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter against the Miami Marlins on Sept. 28, 2014 -- exactly one year ago.


"The obvious thing for me is he got stronger as the game went on," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He was throwing a lot of curveballs. We had a heavy left-handed element to our lineup today, and he was throwing the curveball a lot. I hadn't seen him use the curveball quite so much."

The win came two days after Washington was eliminated from postseason play and one day after closer Jonathan Papelbon went for the throat of teammate and MVP candidate Bryce Harper in the dugout in the eighth inning of a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Matt den Dekker, who had three hits Monday and seven in the last two days, had a solo homer in the sixth to give Scherzer a 4-0 lead. Ramos smashed a solo homer to right-center in the fifth to make it 3-0.

"I made a few changes in my swing at Syracuse," said den Dekker, who spent much of the year at Triple-A. "The crowd was great today. They got behind us."

Left fielder den Dekker had an RBI double and center fielder Michael A. Taylor (two hits) added an RBI single in the fourth to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead. Reed Johnson pinch-hit for Scherzer in the eighth and had a sacrifice fly to make it 5-1.


The Nationals (80-76) won just five of their last 15 home games as they fell out of playoff contention as the defending division champs. The Reds (63-93) lost their ninth game in a row.

The last pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same regular season was Nolan Ryan with the Angels in 1973. Ryan also threw a no-hitter on Sept. 28, 1974. Roy Halladay of the Phillies threw a regular-season and a playoff no-hitter in 2010.

Reds starter and loser Brandon Finnegan (4-2) went five innings and allowed three runs on eight hits before Jumbo Diaz came on to pitch the sixth.

It was the 10th time this year Scherzer had at least 10 strikeouts in a game.

"As he got into those middle innings, it really seemed like the fastball velocity and command began to peak," Price said. "And when he needed an out, he'd just reach back. He got up to 99 miles per hour. With him, it's that special, it almost seems like an elevating fastball that jumps at the hitter. And he had the real good slider and change, and that makes him very difficult to beat."


NOTES: The Nationals suspended RHP Jonathan Papelbon for four games on Monday after his altercation with outfielder teammate and MVP candidate Bryce Harper in the dugout in the eighth inning of a 12-5 loss Sunday to the Phillies at Nationals Park. Papelbon was suspended without pay by the team for his role in the fight, while Harper was held out of one game with pay -- the game Monday. In addition, Papelbon will serve his three-game suspension that was handed down by Major League Baseball last week after he hit Baltimore star Manny Machado with a pitch in a game Wednesday at Nationals Park. That three-game suspension began Monday and Papelbon is not allowed to be around the team for the MLB suspension and is not expected to be on the road trip. ... The Reds are 29-49 on the road. ... Reds LHP Brandon Finnegan made his third major league start with the Reds and fifth appearance with the club. ... RHP Josh Smith (0-2, 7.23 ERA) of the Reds will face Cubs RHP Dan Haren (9-9, 3.83) on Tuesday in Cincinnati. ... Washington RHP Max Scherzer made his final home start Monday in his first year with the Nationals. He has allowed 27 homers this year -- two fewer than his career high and nine more than last year with Detroit.


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