The New York Yankees on Saturday pushed across the tying run against the Washington Nationals bullpen in the ninth and wound up winning the game in 11 innings by a score of 4-2 (box score). Kyle Higashioka mashed his fifth home run of the season, and Gleyber Torres picked up a pair of hits, including the walk-off infield single with the bases loaded.
At an individual level, however, the story was Nats right-hander Max Scherzer. Here’s his line for the day:
Of Scherzer’s 109 pitches, 69 went for strikes. Now for some relevant moving pictures:
Those 14 strikeouts are a record for an opposing pitcher at new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. As well, Scherzer on Saturday struck out 10 or more batters for the 100th time in his career. He becomes just the fifth pitcher to reach that mark, as he joins Nolan Ryan (215), Randy Johnson (212), Roger Clemens (110), and Pedro Martinez (100). On top of all that, Scherzer on Saturday moved past Mickey Lolich and into 20th place on the all-time strikeout list with 2,845 punch-outs.
Scherzer against the Yankees also induced a whopping 22 swings and misses on the day, which brings us to this example of his long-standing dominance:
Scherzer in 2020 showed some signs of decline, in terms of both run prevention and at the command-and-control level. However, we’re talking about a span of just 12 starts in the middle of a global pandemic. Yes, Scherzer is into his mid-thirties, but the 2021 season thus far has served notice that the elite skills are still intact. After Saturday’s gem, Scherzer now has a 2.33 ERA for the season with 61 strikeouts against seven walks in 46 1/3 innings.
As for the stuff, Scherzer’s four-seam fastball, which he leans on heavily, has lost a tick of velocity, but he’s still overwhelming hitters with hit. That’s because he still has command of five different pitches, and he’s actually gained a little heat on the slider and cutter. The stuff is still elite, which is what you’d expect given the numbers above.
Scherzer in his age-36 season has been as effective as he’s ever been, and he’s looking like a threat to win the Cy Young award for the fourth time in his career. Given that it’s also Scherzer’s walk year, he’s already been the subject of trade speculation. That would require the Nats to fall hopelessly out of contention in the NL East before the July 31 trade deadline — a tall order given the likely balance and compression in the division — and defy their strong recent history of commendably going for it no matter what. Whatever the case, Scherzer’s dominance thus far in 2021 figures to continue.