By Michael Marzzacco
A little over a month ago I had the chance to attend my first Nationals game of the season when they took on the Detroit Tigers. It occurred just four days after graduating from Radford University and I received the tickets as part of a graduation present. It was exciting enough being Bryce Harper bobblehead night honoring the 2015 National League MVP but my dad and I were in for something special. If getting a bobblehead wasn’t exciting enough, the pitching matchup certainly was. It featured former National, and a favorite of mine, Jordan Zimmermann up against ace Max Scherzer. Many Nats fans remember Zimmermann when he threw the first no-hitter in Nationals history on the final day of the 2014 regular season. And of course nobody could forget that spectacular catch made by Steven Souza Jr.
Wednesday May 11 rolled around and it was a gloomy and rainy day for the most part. It was apparently the second or third straight week it had been raining nonstop in the DC area. It was the day after the Capitals got eliminated by the Penguins in heartbreaking fashion, a near comeback effort in Game 6 that fell short in overtime. I was depressed throughout the whole day even on that drive to the metro station and getting on the subway. The train ride lasted over an hour with all the maintenance going on. I finally got to see why my friends who work in DC always complain about the metro.
After that long, brutal ride, my dad and I got our bobbleheads and went to our seats. I was still feeling pretty down about the Caps but I was happy to be back at Nationals Park, at a DC sporting event, where I belong.
It was my first time getting to see Scherzer pitch in person. After watching him throw two no-hitters on TV last year, I always wanted to see him play. Two innings into the contest, he had five strikeouts. I turned to my dad and said “wow he’s throwing smoke tonight.”
In the fifth inning, I left my seat to go get food. While waiting in line, I was following the action on the TV. I could hear Bob and FP, the Nats amazing broadcasters, talking about how many strikeouts Scherzer threw so far. After the inning ended, I found out he had 11 strikeouts.
Every inning from here on out, the ballpark got louder and louder on every two-strike count. In the seventh inning when it reached two-strike counts on James McCann and Anthony Gose, everybody started coming to their feet. He struck both of them out and after seven innings the strikeout count reached 15. In the eighth inning, he struck out all three batters he faced, bringing his total to 18 to set a new franchise record for strikeouts in a game.
When the ninth inning rolled around, everybody was on their feet. He struck out the two batters, including Miguel Cabrera. He got the third out on a groundout to seal the win. It was the first 20 strikeout game since Randy Johnson did it in 2001. The strikeout count on the scoreboard was filled all the way through with K’s.
Scherzer’s teammates mobbed him and showered him with Gatorade. It was so cool to be there to witness such a historical performance. While I may never see a gem like this again, considering how rare it is to see 20 strikeouts in a game, I hope to be in the park for more historical moments.