Skip to content

Perfect? No. Historic? Yes.

Jun 20, 2015, 10:50 PM EST

USA Today Sports Images

Updated at 10:50 p.m.

When it didn’t happen six days earlier, when Carlos Gomez’s broken-bat blooper fell to the ground just beyond Anthony Rendon’s outstretched glove in the seventh inning in Milwaukee, Max Scherzer could only shrug off his bad luck and wonder if he’d ever get another chance like that to pitch a perfect game.

So when, incredibly, it happened again Saturday evening, when Jose Tabata’s left elbow was clipped by a 2-2, 2-out slider in the ninth inning on South Capitol Street, Scherzer could only shrug it off once again but this time focus on the opportunity that still lay before him.

“Pretty easy to do,” he said later. “It probably took two seconds. Realized I lost the perfect game. You just move on. Finish this thing out.”

Which is exactly what Scherzer did, falling one strike short of the 24th perfect game in MLB history but completing the first no-hitter of his career, the second in Nationals history, the fourth in Washington’s baseball history.

With precision and power, Scherzer retired the first 26 Pittsburgh Pirates who dared step into the box to face him on a muggy, 91-degree day. He lost his shot at perfection when that 2-2 slider with two outs in the ninth clipped Tabata’s elbow. (Or did Tabata’s elbow find the ball?) But he immediately got Josh Harrison to fly out to left to cap a 6-0 victory, setting off a mad celebration in the middle of the diamond that ended with Scherzer completely drenched in chocolate syrup courtesy Jordan Zimmermann, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.

“Cloud nine,” Scherzer said about 20 minutes later after a quick shower. “When you can celebrate with your teammates on a major accomplishment, there’s nothing better. And when everybody wants to celebrate with you, dump the Gatorade, pour the chocolate syrup … How many bottles did we have? It felt like we had 3 bottles.”

Actually, Scherzer was informed, it was six.

“Six bottles? Dear, god,” he moaned. “I thought it was three. Alright, so I had six bottles of chocolate syrup all over me. I mean, that’s just a great feeling. I can’t describe it. It’s a cloud nine moment.”

That it would happen at the end of a week that began with another near-perfecto only added to the drama.

Scherzer carried a perfect game into the seventh inning at Miller Park on Sunday before Gomez’s broken-bat single to shallow right broke up that shot at history. He still finished with a 1-hit, 1-walk, 16-strikeout shutout, still one of the most dominant pitching performances in history (as evidenced by its Game Score of 100).

This one featured one fewer baserunner and six fewer strikeouts, though obviously zero hits or walks. Put it all together and you get a Game Score of 97. Which makes Scherzer the first pitcher in baseball history with back-to-back Game Scores that high, having retired 54 of the last 57 batters he has faced, 26 via strikeout.

“His last two starts have just been unbelievable, just dominant,” first baseman Tyler Moore said. “You see some crazy swings [from] professional hitters. Sometimes I feel like they just don’t have a chance.”

The Pirates didn’t have many legitimate chances on Saturday. Bryce Harper had to track down Starling Marte’s long fly to the base of the fence in right-center in the top of the first, and Michael Taylor made a nice catch of Jordy Mercer’s drive to the wall in left in the top of the third.

Those were the only close calls until two outs in the eighth, when second baseman Danny Espinosa (who had shifted into shallow right field) ranged to his right and made a long throw across his body to barely beat Pedro Alvarez at first base, much to the relief of the sellout crowd of 41,104.

“You typically don’t work on a play at second to your right, that you get around the ball to throw it,” Espinosa said. “At short, that’s a play you make a lot. But at second, that’s typically not a play you make. Getting around the ball, the throw’s just at a different angle right there.”

So Scherzer took the mound for the top of the ninth, his pitch count at 92, his team comfortably ahead by 6 runs, history awaiting. Anthony Rendon made a nice catch of Gregory Polanco’s pop-foul for the first out along the railing of the third-base dugout. Denard Span then caught Mercer’s routine fly ball to center for the second out.

As the crowd roared, ready to burst at the seams, Scherzer and Tabata engaged in the toughest at-bat of the day, an 8-pitch battle that included five foul balls (including three straight with two strikes). Realizing he wasn’t going to overpower the Pirates pinch-hitter with a fastball, Scherzer decided to try to sneak a slider around the inside corner of the plate.

Except it didn’t slide enough. Tabata, wearing a protective pad, dropped his elbow and the ball clipped it, leaving everyone in the ballpark in a momentary state of shock.

“I just kinda got in a squat and I wanted to cry,” said Harper, whose towering home run two days after he appeared to suffer a major leg injury became a footnote to this game. “To be honest with you … to be part of a perfect game would’ve been awesome.”

“I know he tried to throw me a slider or something inside,” Tabata said. “But the slider was not broken, there was no break on it. It was right there, and he got me.”

If anyone was clamoring for the Nationals to argue, to claim Tabata didn’t make an attempt to avoid getting hit by the pitch, Matt Williams explained why he didn’t.

“I think that’s irrelevant at this point,” the manager said. “The last thing I’m going to do is walk on the field and mess up Max’s rhythm. That’d be a crying shame. I ain’t doing that.”

Only once in baseball history had a pitcher lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth by hitting a batter — the previously anonymous Hooks Wiltse of the 1908 New York Giants — so Scherzer legitimately was in rarely charted waters. He managed to compose himself, though, and immediately went after Harrison, coaxing a fly to left out of the Pirates leadoff man, the ball settling into Michael Taylor’s glove and setting off the celebration.

Scherzer’s final numbers were staggering. He threw 82 of his 106 pitches for strikes. He went to a 3-ball count only twice. He went to a 2-ball count only six times.

“I didn’t think they were gonna touch anything he was throwing up there,” Harper said. “I’m sorry, but I just felt that way. The things that he was throwing up there … the 97 mph heater, with slider and changeup and painting every single pitch … I didn’t think they were gonna touch him.”

After it was all over, after the mob scene on the field and the chocolate syrup bath and several rounds of interviews, Scherzer walked back toward the Nationals clubhouse and found his family waiting for him: wife, Erica; mother, Jan; and father, Brad.

Brad and Jan Scherzer had seen their son pitch only once previously this season, and they weren’t originally scheduled to make the trip from St. Louis to D.C. for this one. They were planning to come over July 4th weekend, until a conflict arose and forced them to bump up their visit to this weekend.

As he embraced his son outside the clubhouse, having seen him accomplish what he just did on the third weekend of June, Brad Scherzer didn’t have to think twice about where this moment ranked on his personal list.

“It’s at the top,” the proud papa said. “I’ve seen him pitch no-hitters in Little League, in high school, in college and now in the major leagues. That’s the best. … What a great Father’s Day gift.”

 

  1. ccallahan15 - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:30 PM

    Tamara is a bum for leaning in

    • natfan33 - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:05 PM

      I hope his own teammates rip him for that in their locker room.

    • ccallahan15 - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:14 PM

      Tabata I mean. Of course

    • Sonny G 10 - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:10 PM

      I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. ccallahan15 - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:31 PM

    Congrats Max!!!!

  3. AlexandriaNatFan - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:34 PM

    Freakin NAIL Tapata tomorrow if he comes into the game. What a tool of a player.

    Max did this on my wedding day! Congrats Max!

  4. manassasnatsfan - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:35 PM

    He out pitches Joe Ross again.

    I wish the other starters would do the same.

  5. conatsguy - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:38 PM

    Happy days are here again in Natstown!

    Max had the stuff. Tabata is a tool.

    GYFNG!

  6. dcwx61 - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:38 PM

    Gotta thank Espi and MAT for a little help from his friends

  7. Joe Seamhead - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:38 PM

    The best back to back pitching performances that I have ever seen.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:44 PM

      what you weren’t there for Vandermeer 😉
      but Johnny didn’t hit a 100 perfect score
      but Johnny Holiday was there

    • knoxvillenat - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:15 PM

      Since JZ’s no hitter in 2014 followed by his playoff game against the Giants that was ………

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 21, 2015 at 7:47 AM

        I was at JZ’s, so it will always be special, and I was at the 18 inning playoff game as well, but this two game streak by Max tops it in my book.

      • knoxvillenat - Jun 21, 2015 at 8:30 AM

        Joe,

        I agree Max’s two game run surpasses Zimmermann’s. My point is this is the best two game run SINCE Zimmermann’s. Just wish JZ’s second game had turned out better but then let’s not dwell on the past.

  8. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:40 PM

    What a performance….. how lucky we are to see back to back pitching gems…. twice in a couple of weeks of each other…

    What a day Max…

  9. dcwx61 - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:41 PM

    pitch score 97

    so the last game was technically better
    but this is the one we’ll remember

    • unkyd59 - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:52 PM

      All four of the Ross/Scherzer gems are etched on there for me… I hope they pitch back to back, for years!

  10. TimDz - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:42 PM

    (paraphrased post from last thread) Tabata is so gonna get drilled for that BS next time he plays against us…

    • senators69 - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:07 PM

      Hope so

  11. Hiram Hover - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:47 PM

    Tabata, at age 75:

    “And in 2015, kids, I leaned into a pitch when Max Scherzer was one strike away from a perfect game and robbed him!”

    “Wow, grandpa, you’re a real a$$hole!”

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:50 PM

      +75

    • Doc - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:55 PM

      Tabata needs to learn some real baseball respect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • senators69 - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:08 PM

      +1000!

    • Sonny G 10 - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:17 PM

      Good one, Hiram. 🙂

    • stoatva - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:48 PM

      Best. NI. Comment. Ever.

      • IsawTeddywin - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:07 AM

        I can see the headline now:
        Nat’s take vengeance, Tabata goes to DL after HBP.
        No thanks. Looks like he did dip his elbow in, but not going to let it spoil it for me. Fantastic game.

    • Eric - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:01 AM

      LMAO!!!

  12. texnat1 - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:52 PM

    Was it that blatant a lean in? I didn’t get to watch the game.

    • unkyd59 - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:53 PM

      Yes.

      • IsawTeddywin - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:15 PM

        You guys sound like the fans that wanted to kill RZ when he broke up a no hitter a while back. What did you expect, that he should have leaped desperately out of the way to avoid it? Pitch was off the plate. No complaints from players at the game when it happened.

      • unkyd59 - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:31 PM

        I saw what I saw, Teddy. I won’t lose any sleep over it. Really proud of Max, for knuckling down and finishing it out…

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:54 PM

        Geez Louise, WTH do you expect? We’re FANS, not Supreme Court justices. Of COURSE we’re biased.

        And the Zim hit was NOTHING like this. This was dishonorable, in baseball contexts.

      • Doc - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:17 PM

        Your’e on your NI own on this one Teddy!

        You and Tabata need to take the short course on baseball respect.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:22 PM

        In fairness, not everybody minded. Ray Knight, for instance, went out of his way to say he had no problem with it. FP, unsurprisingly, has a different view. As do I.

      • unkyd59 - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:31 PM

        “No complaints from players at the game when it happened.”

        Players, generally, are much classier than us… Except Tabata, of course…

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:55 PM

      Absolutely.

      • texnat1 - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:58 PM

        Thanks. That is low brow stuff.

  13. stoatva - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    Just watched the replay of the HBP, having followed the game on Gameday.

    I’m thinking maybe Tabata gets the day off tomorrow. Maybe flies ahead to next series. What a jerk.

    • stoatva - Jun 20, 2015 at 6:56 PM

      “That wasn’t a hit by pitch. THIS is a hit by pitch!”

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:08 PM

        I hope that he never sits next to me and my wife at a bar. He’ll at least suffer a hit by bitch. Question, was the pitch a strike if it hadn’t of ” hit” him?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:50 PM

        No, if it hadn’t have, it was a ball.

  14. senators69 - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:11 PM

    Check out ESPN. A bit ago, the only clip they showed on the story was that a$$hole Tabata leaning his elbow into the pitch. So obvious. Frankly, I hope other pitchers see that and they guy gets drilled by everyone! D1CkH3AD

  15. annapmagistra - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:16 PM

    So, has anyone else recorded back-to-back games with a game total of 197?

    • annapmagistra - Jun 20, 2015 at 11:28 PM

      Aha, I see the answer is NO.

  16. Joe Seamhead - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:25 PM

    Tyler Clippard with a 4 out save today for his 11th save.

  17. conatsguy - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:30 PM

    Nats get a series win. Rooting for Braves tonight. Hope we are still in first in a few hours.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:39 PM

      ‘Rooting for Braves tonight.’

      You feel dirty after saying that don’t you. Lol.. 😀😀

      • ArVAFan - Jun 20, 2015 at 7:43 PM

        +1

      • conatsguy - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:36 PM

        Damn auto correct… Meant to say I hope the Mutts get hit by a Barf bag😛

  18. natsjackinfl - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:03 PM

    OK. From a pure baseball perspective, Tabata dropped his pad protected elbow and took a HBP. He saw a breaking ball and didn’t back off which he would have done on a fastball.

    Max shook off 2 pitches to get to that pitch.

    I would have wanted a fastball up in the zone for a strike, not out of the zone for a chase pitch.

    Yes, Tabata is a douche for that maneuver but Max was wrong for shaking off Ramos.

  19. natsjackinfl - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:05 PM

    And if Gio Gonzalez is over 45 pitches by the 3rd inning, I’m done with him. It’s all about throwing strikes, especially strike 1.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:25 PM

      I hear you, but that’s just not how Gio pitches. It never was, even when he was very successful. It is what it is.

    • Jfmii - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:39 PM

      You make it sound so easy

  20. Joe Seamhead - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:16 PM

    Man, are we getting crushed by a thunderstorm right now. Really violent thunder and lightning.

    Anyway, regardless of the HBP, this was a masterpiece by Max.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:26 PM

      Here in Shaw, too. Last cell brought some hail.

      • dcwx61 - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:37 AM

        Hail in DC…wow, even the weather gods are po’d with Tabitha 😉

  21. Hiram Hover - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:18 PM

    This is how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote it up:

    “Tabata wore a small smile as he explained his approach as the last man standing between Scherzer and the 24th perfect game in baseball history.

    ” ‘I’m thinking of hitting a good pitch,’ Tabata said. ‘And he got me.

    ” ‘Good for him. He got a no-no. That’s all I can say.’ ”

    I can think of a few more things to say.

    • fstop1970 - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:09 PM

      And compare those comments to what Carlos Gomez said after last week’s game in a somewhat similar situation. Carlos Gomez, class act and a true professional. Jose Tabata, not so much….in fact, not even close.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:39 AM

      He should be looked at by pitchers everwhere like a cubs fan views a Bartman

  22. Doc - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:19 PM

    Max For President!

    Naw, that would be a waste of baseball talent.

    Maxie is outhitting some of our bench guys!

    • Tyler Babip - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:05 PM

      Not just the bench…

  23. TimDz - Jun 20, 2015 at 8:54 PM

    Last weekend, Max got his perfect game broken up by a bloop single, and the batter was almost apologetic, saying he wished he had gotten a clean hit….

    Tabata has no such respect for the game….

  24. virginiascopist - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:01 PM

    Gee, I wonder who the NL player of the week will be?

    • stoatva - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:06 PM

      Won’t be José Tabbycat. Ever.

      • natsfan1a - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:38 PM

        Please do not insult tabby cats. My cat finds such comments objectionable. Thank you. 😉

  25. Tyler Babip - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:09 PM

    I wish he’d HBP’d Tabata in any other inning. Then we’d be over the moon about how great the no-hitter was, and that’d be that.

    Three cheers for Max Scherzer, if I had kids I’d be telling them to study him the way he studies the other team: that’s how to become great, my hypothetical little ones. Now I need to figure it out, too.

  26. senators69 - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:09 PM

    I happened to visit the Wash Post website story on the game. An exchange of comments caught my eye (credit to the W.Post):

    “my fellow washingtonians, you have Pedro Martinez and Mickey Mantle on the same team…..I hope you appreciate this.”
    “Max has nasty, nasty stuff. Like Pedro. And I think Mantle is the comparison. Harper just crushes the ball, and has a physique like the Mick.”
    “Good points I agree but Mantle’s great career was shortened by injury.”

    Interesting comparisons…
    Let’s hope that Harper is not injured like the Mick.

    • stoatva - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:11 PM

      Mick never took good care of himself. Bryce is a fanatic.

      Guarantees nothing, of course.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:57 AM

      when did Pedro and Mick play on the same team ?

    • dcwx61 - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:58 AM

      maybe Ford and Mantle ?
      Spahn and Aaron

  27. stoatva - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:10 PM

    Now that most of the rage I out of my system I take solace from the fact that, at career’s end, this is all josé Tabata will be remembered for, and it won’t be with pride.

    Looking forward to tomorrow at the ballpark.

  28. natsfan1a - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:34 PM

    Heh, we were sightseeing with our out-of-town guest today and have tix for tomorrow’s game. I guess we picked the wrong day. Congrats to Max and to all who saw it. At least I’ll always have Jordan’s no-no. 😉

  29. natsfan1a - Jun 20, 2015 at 9:37 PM

    Also glad to learn that Bryce was in the lineup. Am behind on game viewing, having been out at the P-Nats last night and sightseeing today. But I did set the DVR for today’s game and will watch it at some point, probably on Monday. I guess we pulled Gio for tomorrow’s game. Go, NATS!

  30. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 21, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    I now have the distinction of missing two Nats no-hitters by a single day. Last September, went with my daughter and her fiance to the game the day before Zimmermann’s no-hitter — birthday present to me. They are also taking me to the game today — Father’s Day present. Should I complain?

    • Candide - Jun 21, 2015 at 9:24 AM

      Heh – my comment from an earlier post:

      ***************************************************************

      How ticked off is Cunegonde? VERY ticked off.

      After Max’s last gem, she looked at the schedule and our tickets for yesterday’s game and she was all, “WooHoo*, we’re going to get to see Scherzer pitch!”

      Then when we learned Ross was pitching yesterday, she was all, ” Dammit, I wanted to see Scherzer pitch!”

      And then when we were visiting friends this afternoon/evening and couldn’t watch the game and I peeked at MLB AtBat and told her Max had pitched a no-no, she was all, “WooHoo*/Dammit!”

      And then when she remembered that a bunch of our friends from our ski club were there today, she was all DAMMITDAMMITDAMMIT!!!”

      *Copyright 2015 MicheleS – all rights reserved.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:41 AM

      It’s all about gratitude today…Enjoy

  31. npb99 - Jun 21, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    I made the dreary observation after the Rays series that we hadn’t won a series since the Cub series in late May. And now we’ve beaten the Pirates.
    Now I’ll make the observation that we haven’t swept a series since a 2-game home series with the Yankees a month ago….

  32. whatsanattau - Jun 21, 2015 at 9:40 AM

    Memo to marketing department- chocolate scherzers for Halloween. October baseball.

  33. whatsanattau - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:01 AM

    Note, Hershey’s should be willing to work with you on that. Or possibly the fudge covered Scherzer cookie.

  34. NatsLady - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:03 AM

    Eeeh, the tire I got “fixed” yesterday afternoon wasn’t fixed, and I’m running out of quarters, and FOR THAT I MISSED MAX’S NO-NO?????

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 21, 2015 at 10:41 AM

      Bummer! I’m sorry, NL.

  35. Trevor Uitenbroek - Jun 21, 2015 at 5:16 PM

    Reblogged this on Sports Variety Journal.

  36. snopes1 - Jun 22, 2015 at 2:49 AM

    This is beautifully written, Mark. You should be proud of this story.

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

WLGB
NEW YORK9072
WASHINGTON83797.0
MIAMI719119.0
ATLANTA679523.0
PHILADELPHIA639927.0

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter