Washington Nationals’ starter Max Scherzer may have just put up the best month for a pitcher in MLB history with his absolutely dominant June.
Since Max Scherzer joined the Washington Nationals in 2015, Nats’ fans have had the pleasure of watching the future Hall of Famer pitch every fifth game. Scherzer’s outings are must-see events and usually result in another curly W being put in the books for the Nats (from 2015 through 2018, Washington won 65% of the 131 games started by its ace starting pitcher).
In the first two months of this season, that trend was reversed. Despite Scherzer’s performing solidly (3.26 ERA over 78.1 innings pitched in April and May), Washington won only two of the 12 games started by him.
Scherzer’s response to that alarming trend was to confront it with the intensity he displays each and every inning he’s on the mound. The Nats won all six games started by Scherzer in June, with its star getting the win in each contest, in a month that may have been the most dominant for a pitcher in modern-day Major League Baseball history.
The month began with Scherzer striking out a season-high 15 Reds and allowing only one run at the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati as the Nats beat the Reds 4-1. Six days later at a pitcher’s park in San Diego, Scherzer shut the Padres out over seven innings while fanning nine as the Nats won 4-1. He followed those gems up with wins at home over the Diamondbacks and Phillies, striking out 10 in each game while allowing only two runs in 14 innings pitched. Back on the road to close out the month, Scherzer dominated the Marlins over eight innings on June 23rd in a 6-1 win, and blew away his former team in Detroit with a 14 strikeout, eight-inning gem in the Nats’ 2-1 series-clinching victory over the Tigers.
Scherzer finished June 2019 with a 6-0 record, allowing only five earned runs in 45 innings pitched (1.00 ERA), striking out 68 batters and walking only five as he started building a case for fourth Cy Young Award. More importantly for this year’s Nats’ team, Scherzer’s dominance injected life into a team that seemed dead in the water at the end of May but now is back in the thick of things in the National League playoff race.
Looking at Max’s amazing run in a historical context, it is clear that we just watched something very special. For pitchers with at least six starts in a calendar month since 1920, Scherzer’s .667 WHIP in June 2019 tied St. Louis Cardinal great Bob Gibson (who posted a .667 WHIP in June of his magical 1968 season) for the top mark. In strikeouts per nine innings pitched, Scherzer’s 13.6 rate last month trails only Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez’s 14.1 rate in May 1999. Scherzer also displayed superb control in June, walking only five batters. His strikeout to walk ratio of 13.60 trails only Clayton Kershaw’s 15.25 in June 2014 among pitchers with at least six starts n a month.
Watching Scherzer pitch last month gave us all a glimpse of athletic dominance that is not a commonplace event. Scherzer made some great hitters look bad, as he has done regularly over his sensational career, and in the process helped the Nationals turn a disappointing start to the year into a season with promise.