Max Scherzer records 3,000th strikeout, flirts with perfect game in Dodgers’ sweep
Max Scherzer zoomed past another signpost on the road to Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sunday, barely pausing to mark the 3,000th strikeout of a distinguished 14-year career that will culminate with his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
When the Dodgers right-hander whiffed Eric Hosmer with a full-count changeup in the fifth inning of an 8-0 victory over the San Diego Padres, catcher Will Smith tossed the milestone ball to the dugout and Scherzer doffed his cap to a roaring crowd of 42,637 in Chavez Ravine, the delay lasting all of about 20 seconds.
Scherzer had work to do, and his laser focus and disdain for distractions pushed the three-time Cy Young Award winner to the brink of even more history.
Scherzer retired the first 22 batters of the game, but five outs away from a perfect game — a feat accomplished by only 23 major leaguers — and with the drama and tension building with every out, he gave up a one-out double in the eighth to Hosmer, who laced a 2-and-1 changeup into the right-field corner.
Mookie Betts hits a three-run home run and Joe Kelly gets the Dodgers out of an eighth-inning jam in a 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres.
Scherzer settled for an eight-inning, one-hit, nine-strikeout, no-walk gem that improved him to 14-4 with a major league-best 2.17 ERA on the season, and 6-0 with an 0.88 ERA in eight starts since his July 30 trade from Washington.
“To throw no-hitters, perfect games, you really have to execute every single pitch, especially at the end, because the other team knows what’s going on, and they’re giving you the best at-bats you can get,” said Scherzer, who threw two no-hitters for the Nationals in 2015. “One little pitch in a bad count, that’s what gives it up.”
The loss of the perfect game hardly put a damper on the day for Scherzer and the Dodgers, who completed a three-game sweep of the Padres to remain 2½ games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West with 18 games left.
Scherzer, 37, threw the third immaculate inning of his career in the second, striking out Fernando Tatis Jr., Hosmer and Tommy Pham on nine pitches, all swinging strikes, three of which were fouled off.
Only two other pitchers are believed to have thrown at least three immaculate innings, Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and current Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale.
Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer records his 3,000th career strikeout in win over Padres.
Scherzer whiffed Wil Myers with an 89-mph cut-fastball to open the third for strikeout No. 2,999. Austin Nola grounded out and Nabil Crismatt, who replaced injured Padres starter Blake Snell in the first inning, hit a tapper to the mound for the third out.
Scherzer got Hosmer to chase a down-and-in, 88-mph changeup for the second out of the fifth to become only the 19th pitcher in major league history to reach 3,000 strikeouts and the first to do it in a Dodgers uniform.
Of the 18 other pitchers in baseball’s 3,000-strikeout club, all but four — Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander — are in the Hall of Fame. Sabathia retired after 2019 and is not yet eligible for Hall of Fame voting, and Verlander is still active though injured this season.
“It’s hard to describe the emotions of it — it’s an awesome achievement,” said Scherzer, whose parents, wife and three kids were in attendance. “To me, this is a testament to durability, of making my 30-plus starts year in and year out. Everyone can have the ability to do this, but few have the durability to do it.”
Scherzer, whose five-pitch mix featured a four-seam fastball that averaged 95 mph and touched 98 mph, threw 92 pitches, 62 for strikes, and did not throw more than 14 pitches in any inning.
“I love strikeouts because the ball is not in play — they can’t get a hit when the ball’s not in play,” Scherzer said. “But you want to get strikeouts efficiently. You don’t want to have eight-pitch strikeouts. That drives your pitch count up.”
Scherzer has struck out 72 and walked five in 51 innings of his eight starts for the Dodgers, and he has not given up an earned run in 29 2/3 innings of his last four starts. If he can finish strong, he could challenge Randy Johnson for best trade-deadline pitching acquisition in baseball history.
The 6-foot-10 Johnson went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 116 and walking 26 in 84 1/3 innings, after his 1998 trade from Seattle to Houston.
“We’ve had some good runs from starting pitchers,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “but I can’t imagine a better eight-start run, especially with where we’re at in the season.”
Added right fielder Mookie Betts: “It’s kind of amazing to watch greatness. You just really appreciate the best of the best when you get to see it every day.”
Corey Seager and Betts staked Scherzer to a 2-0 lead with solo homers in the fourth and fifth innings. The Dodgers blew the game open with a four-run seventh that featured Max Muncy’s RBI double and Justin Turner’s three-run homer. Cody Bellinger snapped an 0-for-26 slump with a double in a two-run eighth.
When Scherzer was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the eighth, he began celebrating his 3,000th strikeout, sharing a warm embrace with fellow three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, who has 2,653 career strikeouts.
Scherzer, who will be a free agent this winter, then provided potential hope among the Dodgers and their fans that he is open to continuing his career in Los Angeles.
“He was happy to be able to watch it,” Scherzer said of Kershaw, who will also be a free agent. “We’re on the same team. Hopefully I’m here to watch his 3,000th strikeout as well.”
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