NEW YORK -- Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer struggled to find words after joining some of baseball's immortals. That's because Scherzer had just become the sixth pitcher in major league history to throw two no-hitters in a season when he completed the feat against the New York Mets on Saturday night in a 2-0 victory. He previously had no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 20.
Scherzer joined Roy Halladay (2010), Nolan Ryan (1973), Virgil Trucks (1952), Allie Reynolds (1951) and Johnny Vander Meer (1938) in throwing two no-hitters within a season. (Halladay's second came in the Division Series.)
"Guys, I'm speechless about that," Scherzer said. "I don't know what to say. You go out there and try to have as much success as possible. You try to accomplish as much as you can and do everything you can. ... To have that happen twice in a season, it's special. And when you start talking about the history of the game, you can't even really think about that. That's why I'm speechless."
Scherzer nearly produced a perfect game. Third baseman Yunel Escobar's skipped throw to first base on Kevin Plawecki's leadoff grounder in the sixth inning resulted in an error. Scherzer faced only 28 batters in the game.
"I threw a slider, and I know it was a ground ball there," Scherzer said. "I had my back turned, so I didn't see what happened. I just saw it short-hopped him. It's just a play that didn't get made. Yuni goes out there and competes as hard as anybody. I'm sure he doesn't feel great about it. Look, we're major leaguers. We go out there -- and, especially him -- he competes. He battles through injuries. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. The play just didn't get made."
Scherzer struck out 17, matching Ryan's no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers on July 15, 1973, for the most strikeouts in a no-hitter in major league history.
The Mets have been no-hit twice this season. San Francisco's Chris Heston no-hit the Amazin's on June 9.
Scherzer insisted that producing a no-hitter against the Mets, who needed the win to try to secure home-field advantage in their Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, was not important to him.
He described his pair of no-hitters as "bittersweet" because of the disappointment from a team perspective this season. The Nationals were heavily favored to win the National League East but instead arrived at Citi Field this weekend to find an NL East championship banner on a right-field pole at the Queens stadium. Manager Matt Williams, whose future is tenuous, might manage his final game with the club Sunday.
"It's been a disappointing season for our team. There's no doubt about that," Scherzer said. "That's why this is bittersweet. We wish we were playing longer into October, but we're not. From a season standpoint, we were able to accomplish some good things together, but it wasn't good enough.
"You always go back when you don't accomplish your goals. You always reflect on how you can be better. And there's ways I can be a better pitcher. I do think I was a better pitcher in 2015 than I was in 2014. I feel like I'm able to do more things with the baseball and sequence guys different. I just feel like all of my pitches are better. But I still have room for improvement. I gave up a bunch of home runs there in the second half. That's something I have to improve upon in 2016."
Scherzer knew he had a "real shot" at the feat after completing seven hitless innings.
With manager Terry Collins trying not to overwork his players heading into the postseason, many of the Mets regulars were sitting out the nightcap of the split doubleheader, including David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda.
Cespedes and Duda pinch-hit to begin the ninth. They were the final two victims during a stretch of nine straight strikeouts recorded by Scherzer. Curtis Granderson then popped out for the game's final out.
Scherzer's 17 strikeouts fell one shy of the Nationals/Expos record for a game, which was established by Bill Gullickson on Sept. 10, 1980, with Montreal against the Chicago Cubs.
"When you go through the order one time through, you know you've got something going," Scherzer said. "When you go through the lineup two times through, you know you've got a real shot. That's kind of my threshold of when you know you have something going. After you get through six, you know you have a shot. If you can get through seven, then you can really empty the tanks in the eighth. And then you give everything you've got in the ninth. Once I was able to get through the seventh, I knew, 'OK, here we go. We've got a real shot at this.'"
Scherzer had a worthy opponent in Matt Harvey. The Mets' ace took a scoreless effort into the sixth inning, when third baseman Kelly Johnson committed an error that allowed Michael Taylor to reach base. Taylor ultimately scored on Wilson Ramos' sacrifice fly to break the scoreless duel.
"You know who you're facing. You know you have to bring your A-game," Scherzer said. "Matt Harvey is a great pitcher. You know he's going to throw the ball tremendous. And he did tonight. He punched out a bunch of guys, too. From that standpoint, you've just got to match him. It's almost like playing a game of H-O-R-S-E. He makes a shot, you've got to make a shot. For me, that's what it felt like tonight, that if I can just keep executing pitches, I'm going to give my best effort to try to match him."
Afterward, the Nationals partied in their clubhouse.
"I think I tasted some chocolate sauce," Scherzer said, referring to the celebration condiment he started dousing on teammates after walk-off wins earlier this season. "There was a huge beer shower in the clubhouse. I was covered. It was freezing cold. Somewhere, I think, there was chocolate sauce. I don't know. It was too cold to really know."
Said teammate Dan Uggla: "You don't get to see that every day. We're fortunate to have the pitching staff that we do, especially with a guy like Max. He can do that any time he goes out and makes a start."