2016 Washington Nationals season

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2016 Washington Nationals
Major League affiliations
Location
  • Washington, D.C. (since 2005)
Other information
Owner(s) Lerner Enterprises
General manager(s) Mike Rizzo
Manager(s) Dusty Baker[1]
Local television MASN
WUSA (CBS affiliate)
(Bob Carpenter, FP Santangelo, Johnny Holliday, Ray Knight)
Local radio WJFK 106.7 FM
Washington Nationals Radio Network
(Charlie Slowes, Dave Jageler)
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The 2016 Washington Nationals season is the Nationals' 12th season as the baseball franchise of Major League Baseball in the District of Columbia, the ninth season at Nationals Park, and the 48th since the original team was started in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Offseason

Team news

Less than 24 hours after the end of the 2015 season, manager Matt Williams and his entire coaching staff were dismissed.[2] Some coaches were offered other positions in the organization, with bench coach Randy Knorr notably accepting a position as senior assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo for player development.[3]

The Nationals embarked on a wide-ranging search to replace Williams, who was still owed salary for 2016 after being fired midway through a multi-year contract.[4] Among the candidates they interviewed were former Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker, former San Diego Padres manager Bud Black, former Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, Los Angeles Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach, Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Andy Green, San Francisco Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, former Nationals player Alex Cora, and Triple-A Reno Aces manager Phil Nevin. From the group, Baker and Black emerged as finalists and received second interviews.[5] On October 28, The Washington Post reported Black would likely be hired as manager.[6] But according to reports that surfaced late on November 2 from, among others, the Post, CBS Sports, and USA Today, while Black was offered the job and accepted, a disagreement over contract terms led to negotiations between the Nationals and Black breaking down. The Nationals' initial offer to Black was reportedly one year guaranteed at $1.6 million, an offer Black considered a "lowball".[7] Unable to come to terms with Black, the Nationals' front office turned to its other leading choice, the more experienced Baker.[8] Early on November 3, the Nationals announced Baker had been hired to a two-year contract as manager.[9][10]

Baker and management set to work immediately on hiring new coaches. Mike Maddux was announced as the Nationals' new pitching coach on November 4.[11] Davey Lopes was hired back to his former position as first base coach – a position he held in 2006 – the following day.[12] Rick Schu and Bob Henley were also rehired as hitting coach and third base coach respectively, positions they held under Williams as well.[13][14] The Nationals also hired former major league outfielder Jacque Jones to be Schu's assistant hitting coach and named former Montreal Expos shortstop Chris Speier as bench coach.[15][16] Mexican League manager and coach Dan Firova was brought on as bullpen coach.[17]

The Nationals also faced several decisions about what to do with players set to reach free agency, as well as players who had 2016 options. On November 2, the team announced it would decline options for right-handed reliever Casey Janssen and outfielder Nate McLouth, after Janssen struggled with injury and poor performance during the 2015 season and McLouth spent the entire year on the 60-day disabled list.[18] Janssen and McLouth joined utility infielder Emmanuel Burriss, shortstop Ian Desmond, starter-turned-reliever Doug Fister, outfielder Reed Johnson, center fielder Denard Span, left-handed reliever Matt Thornton, second baseman Dan Uggla, and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann in a sizable free agent class.[19][20][21] Qualifying offers worth $15.8 million apiece were extended to Desmond and Zimmermann,[22] although both rejected them, as expected.[23] Right-handed reliever David Carpenter also elected free agency after being outrighted from the Nationals' 40-man roster on November 18, 2015.[24] On December 2, 2015, the Nationals announced they had not tendered a contract to right-handed reliever Craig Stammen, who was eligible for arbitration.[25]

The Nationals bid for contracts with multiple top free agents during the off-season, including Yoenis Céspedes, Jason Heyward, Darren O'Day, Justin Upton, and Ben Zobrist, but lost out on them to other teams.[26][27][28]

Transactions

On November 16, 2015, the Nationals resigned outfielder Reed Johnson and signed left-handed relief pitcher Sean Burnett to minor league deals with invitations to spring training.[29]

On November 17, 2015, the Nationals signed outfielder Logan Schafer to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.[30]

On November 21, 2015, the Nationals resigned infielder Scott Sizemore and signed outfielder Chris Heisey to minor league deals with invitations to spring training.[31]

On December 10, 2015, the Nationals traded infielder Yunel Escobar and cash considerations to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for right-handed relief pitcher Trevor Gott and right-handed minor league starting pitcher Michael Brady.[32]

On December 11, 2015, the Nationals signed left-handed relief pitcher Óliver Pérez[33] and right-handed relief pitcher Shawn Kelley.[34]

On December 14, 2015, the Nationals signed right-handed relief pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, as well as right-handed relief pitcher Nick Masset, who accepted a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.[35]

On December 18, 2015, the Nationals signed left-handed relief pitcher Aaron Laffey to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.[36]

On December 23, 2015, the Nationals signed catcher Jhonatan Solano to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.[37]

On January 6, 2016, the Nationals signed infielders Daniel Murphy and Stephen Drew. Minor league relievers Erik Davis and Taylor Hill were designated for assignment to clear space for Murphy and Drew on the 40-man roster[38] and outrighted to Triple-A Syracuse, with invitations to spring training.[39]

On January 8, 2016, the Nationals traded right-handed relief pitcher Drew Storen to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Ben Revere and a player to be named later.[40]

On January 26, 2016, the Nationals signed right-handed starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.[41]

On February 2, 2016, the Nationals signed infielder Brendan Ryan to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.[42]

On February 17, 2016, the Nationals signed right-handed relief pitcher Matt Belisle to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.[43]

On February 18, 2016, the Nationals signed right-handed relief pitcher Burke Badenhop to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.[44]

On March 19, 2016, the Nationals announced they granted outfielder Logan Schafer his unconditional release from a minor league deal.[45]

On March 25, 2016, the Nationals outrighted first baseman Tyler Moore to Triple-A Syracuse.[46] He was traded two days later to the Atlanta Braves for another minor league first baseman, Nate Freiman.[47]

On March 29, 2016, the Nationals selected the contract of minor league right-handed relief pitcher Matt Belisle and added him to the 40-man roster.[48]

On March 30, 2016, the Nationals released and resigned right-handed pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Burke Badenhop to minor league deals.[49]

On April 1, 2016, the Nationals selected the contract of minor league outfielder Chris Heisey and added him to the 40-man roster.[50]

On April 3, 2016, the Nationals announced they released left-handed relief pitcher Sean Burnett and outfielder Reed Johnson from minor league deals.[51]

Spring training

On November 9, 2015, the Nationals and the Houston Astros held a groundbreaking ceremony for The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, a new spring training facility they will share in West Palm Beach, Florida. The new facility, which will provide each team with two major-league-size practice fields, four-minor-league-size practice fields, an agility field, a half field, batting cages, and pitching mounds, will center around a new baseball stadium with 6,400 ticketed seats and 1,250 berm seats, and will place the Nationals far closer to other teams during spring training, facilitating travel for spring training games. The new facility is scheduled to open on January 15, 2017.[52]

The Nationals held their 2016 spring training in Viera, Florida, with home games played at Space Coast Stadium. It was their last spring training in Viera before moving to the new facility.[53] The team's last game at Space Coast Stadium in Viera was a 7–2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on March 27, 2016. Its last scheduled game at Space Coast Stadium on March 28, 2016, was rained out, resulting in the cancellation of activities planned to commemorate the franchise's history there.

The Nationals finished spring training in Viera with the best record in baseball, winning 18 games, losing four, and tying in three. They outscored their opponents by 81 runs in total.[54] After leaving Florida, the Nationals completed their spring training schedule with two exhibition games at Nationals Park at the beginning of April, a win and a tie against the Minnesota Twins. Including these two games, the Nationals completed their spring training schedule with a major-league-best record of 19-4-4.

Regular season

Opening Day

The Washington Nationals opened the regular season on April 4 with an away game at Turner Field, facing the division rival Atlanta Braves. Max Scherzer was their Opening Day starter for the second year in a row.[55]

The Nationals took an early lead when right fielder Bryce Harper hit a solo home run off Atlanta starting pitcher Julio Teheran in the top of the first inning, but the Braves quickly answered with a solo home run of their own off the bat of first baseman Freddie Freeman in the bottom of the first. In the fourth inning, Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy led off with another home run off Teheran, but once again, the Braves came back in the bottom of the same inning as third baseman Adonis Garcia homered off Scherzer with no one on base, tying the game at 2–2.[55]

The deadlock held until the bottom of the eighth inning, when Washington relief pitcher Felipe Rivero loaded the bases with two out. He was relieved by Shawn Kelley, who walked in Jeff Francoeur from third base on four straight balls to Garcia, putting the Braves on top. But once again, the game was tied in the next frame as left fielder Jayson Werth scored on a one-out sacrifice fly by Michael A. Taylor, who took over in center field after Ben Revere left the game early, off Braves closer Jason Grilli. Nationals reliever Blake Treinen pitched around a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth inning to force extra innings.[55]

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman reached and took second base on a throwing error by Braves second baseman Gordon Beckham in the top of the tenth inning, and then Murphy brought him around to score with a double that reached the left field corner, putting the Nationals on top 4–3.[55] Jonathan Papelbon came on to close out the game, retiring all three batters in order to pick up the save and secure an Opening Day win for Washington.[56]

Opening Day lineup

Opening Day Starters
Name Position
Ben Revere Center field
Anthony Rendon Third base
Bryce Harper Right field
Ryan Zimmerman First base
Daniel Murphy Second base
Jayson Werth Left field
Wilson Ramos Catcher
Danny Espinosa Shortstop
Max Scherzer Pitcher

Season standings

National League East

National League East W L Pct. GB Home Road
Washington Nationals 95 67 0.586 50–31 45–36
New York Mets 87 75 0.537 8 44–37 43–38
Miami Marlins 79 82 0.491 15½ 40–40 39–42
Philadelphia Phillies 71 91 0.438 24 37–44 34–47
Atlanta Braves 68 93 0.422 26½ 31–50 37–43


National League Wild Card

Division Leaders W L Pct.
Chicago Cubs 103 58 0.640
Washington Nationals 95 67 0.586
Los Angeles Dodgers 91 71 0.562


Wild Card teams
(Top 2 qualify for 1-game playoff)
W L Pct. GB
San Francisco Giants 87 75 0.537
New York Mets 87 75 0.537
St. Louis Cardinals 86 76 0.531 1
Miami Marlins 79 82 0.491
Pittsburgh Pirates 78 83 0.484
Colorado Rockies 75 87 0.463 12
Milwaukee Brewers 73 89 0.451 14
Philadelphia Phillies 71 91 0.438 16
Arizona Diamondbacks 69 93 0.426 18
Atlanta Braves 68 93 0.422 18½
San Diego Padres 68 94 0.420 19
Cincinnati Reds 68 94 0.420 19


Record vs. opponents

2016 National League Records

Source: NL Standings Head-to-Head
Team ARI ATL CHC CIN COL LAD MIA MIL NYM PHI PIT SD SF STL WSH AL
Arizona 5–2 2-5 3-3 10-9 7-12 2-4 3-4 5-1 4-3 1–5 10-9 6-13 4–3 2-5 5-15
Atlanta 2-5 3-3 3-4 1-6 1-5 11-7 2-5 10-9 11-8 3-4 4-2 3-4 2-4 4-15 8-12
Chicago 5-2 3-3 15-4 2-4 4-3 4-3 11-8 2-5 5-1 14-4 4–2 4-3 10-9 5-2 15-5
Cincinnati 3-3 4-3 4-15 5–2 2-5 3-4 11-8 0–6 4–2 9-10 3-4 3-3 9-10 3-4 5-15
Colorado 9-10 6-1 4-2 2–5 7-12 2-5 1-5 6-1 2-5 2-5 10-9 9-10 2-4 4-2 9-11
Los Angeles 12-7 5–1 3-4 5-2 12–7 1-6 5-2 4–3 4-2 2-5 11-8 8-11 4-2 5-1 10-10
Miami 4-2 7-11 3-4 4-3 5-2 6-1 4–2 7-12 9-10 6–1 3-3 2-4 4-3 9-10 6-14
Milwaukee 4-3 5-2 8-11 8-11 5-1 2-5 2–4 2-5 3-4 9-10 3-4 1–5 6-13 4-2 11-9
New York 1-5 9-10 5-2 6–0 1–6 3–4 12-7 5-2 12-7 3-3 4-3 4-3 3-3 7-12 12-8
Philadelphia 3-4 8-11 1-5 2–4 5-2 2-4 10-9 4-3 7-12 3-4 5-2 3-3 2-5 5-14 11-9
Pittsburgh 5–1 4-3 4-14 10-9 5–2 5-2 1–6 10-9 3-3 4-3 3-3 4-3 9-10 2-4 9-11
San Diego 9-10 2-4 2-4 4-3 9-10 8-11 3-3 4-3 3-4 2-5 3-3 8-11 1–6 4-3 6-14
San Francisco 13-6 4-3 3-4 3-3 10-9 11-8 4-2 5–1 3-4 3-3 3-4 11-8 3-4 3-4 8-12
St. Louis 3–4 4-2 9-10 10-9 4-2 2-4 3-4 13-6 3-3 5-2 10-9 6–1 4-3 2–5 8-12
Washington 5-2 15-4 2-5 4-3 2-4 1-5 10-9 2-4 12-7 14-5 4-2 3-4 4-3 5–2 12-8

Through games of October 2, 2016.


April

The Nationals got off to a fast start, sweeping the division rival Atlanta Braves in two series of six games total while riding out to a 9–1 win-loss mark, surpassing the start to the 1974 Montreal Expos season for the franchise best over the first 10 games of the season.[57] Right fielder and reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper hit his 100th career home run, also his first career grand slam, off Atlanta pitcher Julio Teherán on April 14.[58] He hit another grand slam off Miami Marlins pitcher Chris Narveson on April 19, amid a stretch in which the Nationals homered four times in one inning, another all-time high for the Montreal–Washington franchise.[59] In total, Harper cracked nine home runs in April, tied for second-most in the National League behind Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story and third baseman Nolan Arenado, who hit 10 apiece.[60][61] He also chalked up his first career pinch-hit home run, a game-tying solo blast in the ninth inning, off Minnesota Twins closer Kevin Jepsen on April 24.[62] Harper was named the NL Player of the Month, the second time he received the honor.[63]

Washington's pitching staff performed well over the course of the month, behind only the Chicago Cubs in team ERA.[64] Closer Jonathan Papelbon, acquired in July 2015, more than doubled his save total with the Nationals (seven in 2015),[65][66] notching eight saves during the month[67] to one blown save against his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies.[68] Starters Joe Ross and Stephen Strasburg were undefeated in games they started, with Ross credited with three wins—he left one other start on April 20 with a lead that was held by the bullpen, but the scorers awarded the win to long reliever Yusmeiro Petit since Ross exited the game early due to a finger blister[69]—and Strasburg earning four.[70] Reliever Óliver Pérez picked up the win in the Nationals' longest-ever regular season game, a 16-inning matchup with the Minnesota Twins at Nationals Park on April 24, after tying the game in the 15th with a bunt that was mishandled for a two-base throwing error by Twins catcher John Ryan Murphy and then pitching a shutout frame before right fielder Chris Heisey hit a solo home run for a walkoff win.[62][71]

The Nationals struggled at times on offense, posting the third-worst batting average in the National League ahead of only the Braves and Milwaukee Brewers amid poor performances at the plate from center fielder Michael A. Taylor, left fielder Jayson Werth, and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, despite strong hitting from Harper and second baseman Daniel Murphy, an off-season acquisition who hit in 12 straight games during the month[72] and had 11 multi-hit games.[73] The team also suffered injuries to regular players, with Ben Revere, acquired in the off-season to play center field, straining his oblique during his first at-bat of the season on April 4 and ending up on the disabled list, and reliever Matt Belisle, another off-season pickup, being placed on the disabled list after straining his calf while pitching on April 26. Outfielder Matt den Dekker and reliever Sammy Solis were called up from the Syracuse Chiefs, the Nationals' Class AAA International League affiliate, to replace them on the roster.[74][75] Amid an offensive lull and the injury to Belisle, Washington was swept at home late in the month by the division rival Phillies for their first series loss of the year.[76]

In total, the Nationals finished April with a 16–7 record, the second-best win percentage in baseball behind the Cubs, and a half-game lead over the New York Mets, their closest rivals in the National League East.[77]

May

On May 9, as Stephen Strasburg pitched at Nationals Park in a game against the Detroit Tigers which the Nats won 5-4, news broke that he had agreed to a long-term extension of his contract;[78] prior to the seven-year extension, Strasburg had been under team control for the final season in 2016 before he was due to become a free agent for the first time. Under the extension, signed and officially announced at a press conference at Nationals Park the following day and scheduled to begin in 2017, the Nationals agreed to pay Strasburg $175 million, structured so that Strasburg would receive $15 million a year through the end of the contract in 2023, and another $10 million a year in deferred salary between 2024 and 2030.[79] The contract also included incentive bonuses for Strasburg and opt-outs for him after three years and after four years.[79] The conventional wisdom among baseball analysts and journalists, and even among Strasburg′s close associates, had long been that Strasburg would pursue free agency after the conclusion of the 2016 season and end up playing on a team in his native Southern California, and the contract extension therefore came as a major surprise, but Strasburg cited his comfort with living in the Washington, D.C., area, his appreciation for the Nationals having demonstrated concern for his health and professional future with their controversial decision to shut him down during the 2012 season in order to protect his elbow from overuse during his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and his belief that the Nationals had years of success coming in the future as important factors in his decision.[78][79] The Nationals, Strasburg, and his agent Scott Boras soon revealed that the deal had been firmed up during the final week of April, but had been kept so quiet that even a day trip Strasburg made from St. Louis to Washington on April 30 to undergo a physical required before signing the contract while the Nationals were playing a road series against the St. Louis Cardinals went unnoticed by the baseball world and the press.[78]

In a 3-2 victory over the Tigers at Nationals Park on May 11, 2016, Max Scherzer struck out 20 Tigers in the course of pitching a six-hit complete game, tying the Major League Baseball record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game and becoming only the third player in Major League Baseball history to do so.[80][81][note 1] Through six innings, he threw 77 pitches, 62 of which were strikes.[80] He set a new Nationals Park record for strikeouts in single game when he struck out Detroit shortstop José Iglesias or his 16th strikeout,[80] set a new personal record in the next at-bat when he struck out pinch hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia for his 17th,[80][82][note 2] and in the at-bat after that he ended the inning by striking out second baseman Ian Kinsler for his 18th, tying the Montreal-Washington franchise′s single-game record.[80][note 3]

Scherzer entered the ninth inning having thrown 106 pitches.[80] He gave up a solo home run to right fielder J. D. Martinez on the first pitch of the inning, but in the next at-bat he struck out third baseman Miguel Cabrera to set a new Montreal-Washington franchise record with 19 strikeouts.[80] After giving up a single to first baseman Víctor Martinez[80] – the only Tiger who made a plate appearance that he did not strike out during the game[80] – he struck out left fielder Justin Upton on three pitches for his 20th and final strikeout.[80][81] It was only the fourth time in Major League Baseball history that a pitcher had struck out 20 batters in a nine-inning game, and only the sixth time a pitcher had struck out at least 20 batters in any game.[note 4] Although Scherzer gave up more hits and more runs than any previous pitcher who had struck out 20 batters in nine innings,[81] he did not issue any walks, and of the 119 pitches he threw, 96 were strikes, the first time a pitcher had thrown 96 strikes in a major-league game since 2013;[82] taking into account both the number of strikes thrown and the ratio of strikes to balls, it was the greatest number of strikes thrown in the fewest number of pitches in Major League Baseball history.[82][note 5]

On May 13, 2016, in a 5-3 victory over the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park, Stephen Drew and Chris Heisey both hit pinch-hit home runs. It was the first time in team history that the Nationals had two pinch-hit home runs in the same game.[83] The two home runs made the Nationals second in Major League Baseball in pinch-hit home runs on the season with six in 35 games, three of them by Heisey.[83] The Nats had had only five pinch-hit home runs during the entire previous season.[84]

Between games of a doubleheader against the Marlins on May 14, the Nationals announced that they had exercised their two-year option on the contract of general manager Mike Rizzo, ensuring that Rizzo would remain with the club through the 2018 season. The option reportedly paid Rizzo $2.5 million annually.[85]

On May 26, 2016, Nationals manager Dusty Baker won his 1,700th game as a manager as the Nationals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 at Nationals Park.[86]

June

July

August

September

October

Game log

Legend
  Nationals win
  Nationals loss
  Postponement
Bold Nationals team member
2016 Game Log (32–21)

Current roster

Washington Nationals roster
Active roster Inactive roster Coaches/Other

Pitchers
Starting rotation

Bullpen

Closer

Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders


Pitchers

Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders


Manager

Coaches

60-day disabled list


25 active, 15 inactive

10px 7- or 15-day disabled list
Suspended list
# Personal leave
Roster and coaches updated May 6, 2016
TransactionsDepth chart
All MLB rosters

Statistics

Through [month] [day], 2016.

Batting

Note: G = Games played; AB = At Bats; R = Runs scored; H = Hits; 2B = Doubles; 3B = Triples; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in; BB = Base on balls; SO = Strikeouts; AVG = Batting average; SB = Stolen bases

Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG SB

Pitching

Note: W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; G = Games pitched; GS = Games started; SV = Saves; IP = Innings pitched; H = Hits allowed; R = Runs allowed; ER = Earned runs allowed; HR = Home runs allowed; BB = Walks allowed; K = Strikeouts

Player W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB K

Awards and honors

All-Stars

Farm system

Level Team League Manager
AAA Syracuse Chiefs International League Billy Gardner, Jr.
AA Harrisburg Senators Eastern League Brian Daubach
A-Advanced Potomac Nationals Carolina League Tripp Keister
A Hagerstown Suns South Atlantic League Patrick Anderson
A-Short Season Auburn Doubledays New York–Penn League Jerad Head
Rookie GCL Nationals Gulf Coast League Josh Johnson
Rookie DSL Nationals Dominican Summer League Sandy Martinez

Notes

  1. The only previous nine-inning, 20-strikeout performances were by Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox against the Seattle Mariners on April 29, 1986, by Clemens of the Red Sox against the Detroit Tigers on September 18, 1996, and by Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs against the Houston Astros on May 6, 1998.
  2. Scherzer previously had struck out 17 batters in pitching a no-hitter for the Washington Nationals against the New York Mets on October 3, 2015.
  3. The previous Montreal-Washington franchise record of 18 strikeouts was set by rookie Montreal Expos starting pitcher Bill Gullickson in a game against the Chicago Cubs on September 10, 1980.
  4. The only previous 20-plus-strikeout performances other than the ones in nine-inning games by Clemens and Wood were 20 strikeouts by Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks in a game against the Cincinnati Reds on May 8, 2001, in which he recorded 20 strikeouts in the first nine innings but pitched into the 10th inning, and 21 strikeouts by Tom Cheney of the Washington Senators, who struck out 21 while pitching 16 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on September 12, 1962.
  5. In what could be considered the previous record, Roy Oswalt of the Houston Astros threw 98 strikes in 125 pitches in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2001, meaning that 78.4% of his pitches were strikes, but Scherzer threw only two fewer strikes in six fewer pitches, meaning that 80.7% of his pitches were strikes. It was the first time that a Major League Baseball pitcher had thrown 96 strikes in a game since Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants threw 96 strikes in 148 pitches (64.9% strikes) in a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in 2013. Earlier in 2013, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw 96 strikes in 132 pitches (72.7% strikes) in an 8⅔-inning outing against the Washington Nationals, and in 2012 Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers threw 96 strikes in 132 pitches (72.7% strikes) against the New York Yankees (See Svrluga, Barry, "Special K’s: Max Scherzer’s 20-strikeout night is an ode to efficiency," washingtonpost.com, May 11, 2016 and Svrluga, Barry, "A feat rarer than a perfect game: The five times pitchers struck out 20," washingtonpost.com, May 12, 2016).

References

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