When A.J. Ellis took the bat against Max Scherzer last Wednesday night, the 36,742 Miami fans at Marlins Park stood on their feet, hoping to either win the game or witness history. With one away in the bottom of the 8th inning of the 1-0 Nats lead, the catcher, Ellis, stared down the Washington Nationals’ starter, Scherzer. With the count at one ball and two strikes, Ellis sent a tragic chopper right back up the middle.
Max Scherzer has had a possibly Hall of Fame career, but he has come uncomfortably close to no-hitters on three occasions with no results. Fortunately, almost exactly two years since the unfortunate Nats versus Marlins game on June 20, 2015, Scherzer struck success when he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in a no-no on home turf and did it again later in the year on October 3 in Flushing Meadows, New York over the Mets. In both of those games, Scherzer came close to perfection.
The least aggravating of the two was the latter because of how it was lost and how early on it was lost, too. Third baseman Yunel Escobar would forever regret his inconsistent accuracy after he muffed an easy throw to first base in the 6th inning. The Mets catcher, Kevin Plawecki, would be the only base runner of the entire game.
Despite Escobar picking the worst time in baseball history to make an error (with the exceptions of Fred Merkle, Fred Snodgrass, and Bill Buckner), José Tabata committed a far worse atrocity to blow up Scherzer’s shot at history.
In the top of the 9th inning in Washington D.C., with two out and two strikes, Scherzer threw a pitch that would have caught the upper inside corner of the strike zone if it were not for the eagerness to reach first base of the Pirates’ outfielder, Tabata. Home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski missed the obvious call that Tabata had leaned into the pitch to break up the perfect game, which from then on would merely allow Scherzer to achieve the lesser, but still difficult, no-hitter.
The two crowning accomplishments of Scherzer’s career would be far greater if it were not for the carelessness of a fielder and the wickedness of a batter, but Scherzer can only blame his glove for absolutely losing it versus the Marlins. Ellis’s chopper back towards the mound bounced half an inch too high and nicked off of the pitcher’s glove, causing him to lose his third no-no one a third of the way through the 8th inning.
Unlike missing his opportunities for perfection, Scherzer could not keep his cool and left the bases loaded. Unfortunately, the man with blue and brown eyes threw a wild pitch, allowing José Urena, the pinch runner for Ellis, to score and tie the game. Giancarlo Stanton sent the next pitch into left field and took the lead 2-1; a lead which the Nationals would be unable to tie in the ensuing inning.
Scherzer could blame Adam Lind for the loss as he dropped the third out of the 8th, but we still do not know how the 9th would have turned out. Nevertheless, like Dave Stieb, Scherzer has thrown at least one no-hitter in his career, but he constantly comes close to perfection. Hopefully Scherzer will have a long career, and if he’s lucky, maybe one long enough to finally achieve his long sought-after perfection.