Max Scherzer Becomes Third Pitcher To Strikeout 20 In a Nine Inning Game

by Rocco Constantino | Posted on Wednesday, May 11th, 2016
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Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer joined an elite club on Wednesday night when he recorded 20 strikeouts in a complete game win over the Detroit Tigers.  He joins Roger Clemens and  Kerry Wood  as the only pitchers to accomplish that feat.  Scherzer had a chance to beat the record, but James McCann grounded out to end the game.

The first batter of the game, Ian Kinsler, fouled out to third and then Scherzer recorded the next nine outs via strikeout.  Scherzer ended the game on a similar streak, recording outs 20-27 by strikeout before McCann’s ground out.  In what seemed like an afterthought, the Nationals won the game 3-2.

Scherzer struck out five different Tigers three times each and he struck out every Tigers starter at least once except Victor Martinez.  Somewhat incredibly, his former teammate and opposing pitcher Jordan Zimmerman was one of the seven outs Scherzer didn’t get on his own when he grounded out leading off the sixth.  Scherzer struck out the side in the second, third and eighth and struck out at least two batters in every inning but the fourth.  Only two outs were recorded by Nartionals outfielders.

Wood was the last pitcher to strikeout 20 batters in a game, doing so nearly 18 years to the date of Scherzer’s performance.  The Houston Astros were the victims that game.   Clemens accomplished the feat twice.  He became the first pitcher to strikeout 20 batters in a game when he buzzed through the Seattle Mariners on April 29, 1986 and then duplicated the performance against the Tigers on September 18, 1996.

Scherzer was the first pitcher who had a chance to break Clemens’ record on the final out of the game, as Wood and Clemens II recorded their 20th strikeout on the final out of the game.  Incredibly, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus  has been on the losing end of three of the four 20-strikeout games.  In Wood’s performance and in Clemens second 20-strikeout game, Ausmus was strikeout number 18 for both pitchers.  He was 1-6 with three strikeouts in those two games.

In his next start, Scherzer is scheduled to face the New York Mets  at Citi Field on May 17.  The record for total strikeouts over two starts is 33, which was established 18 years ago today when Wood followed up his 20-strikeout game by fanning 13 Arizona Diamondbacks.  

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Rocco Constantino
About the Author

Rocco is the author of 50 Moments That Defined Major League Baseball (Available on Amazon now!) and former Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He is also a die hard Mets fan going back to the awful early 80's and ready for the revival. D2 NCAA softball coach and athletics administrator. Follow Rocco on Twitter @mlb100years.

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