Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) - An intense Max Scherzer bounced off the rubber after every strike over the last few innings, emphatically snatching the ball back from Wilson Ramos.
It was quite an encore.
It was nearly perfect.
Scherzer followed a 16-strikeout, one-hit shutout with a no-hitter on Saturday afternoon as the Washington Nationals blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-0 in the second of a three-game set.
Scherzer (8-5) was an out away from a perfect game, briskly retiring the first 26 batters he faced before hitting Jose Tabata with two outs in the ninth. The pinch-hitter Tabata had fouled off three straight pitches before a slider got away from Scherzer and nipped Tabata on the left elbow.
It was the 13th time a perfect game was broken up with two away in the ninth.
"Just didn't finish the pitch," Scherzer said. "It backed up on me and clipped him."
Undeterred, the fireballer completed the no-hitter three pitches later.
Scherzer induced a game-ending flyout to left off the bat of Josh Harrison to finish off the sixth no-hitter in the history of the franchise and the second since the team relocated to Washington.
"It shows his mental fortitude," Nationals manager Matt Williams said of his ace.
Scherzer pounded his right hand into his glove and triumphantly raised his arms up in the air once Michael Taylor squeezed the final out. Shortly thereafter, Anthony Rendon showered him with a Gatorade bath and Jordan Zimmermann, the other National to toss a no-hitter, soaked him with chocolate syrup.
"I had six bottles of chocolate all over me," Scherzer said. "It was a great feeling, it was a cloud nine moment."
Scherzer, who struck out 10, took a perfect game into the seventh his last time out at Milwaukee. He's the fifth pitcher to allow one hit or fewer in consecutive complete games and the first since 1944.
"My last two starts, this is some of the best baseball I've thrown," Scherzer said. "I'm executing with all my pitches."
Scherzer fired 82 of his 106 pitches for strikes and was 22-of-28 in first- pitch strikes.
The closest the Pirates came to recording a hit was in the eighth inning when a charging Danny Espinosa threw out Pedro Alvarez by a step from the outfield. Washington shifted its infield against the powerful left-handed Alvarez and his roller initially got past shortstop Ian Desmond. But Espinosa aggressively came forward to field it and make the play.
"He had to come get it hard and make an accurate throw," Williams said of the play.
The no-no was the second of the season. The San Francisco Giants' Chris Heston had one less than two weeks ago against the New York Mets on June 9.
"He attacks the zone," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Scherzer. "You gotta find a way to hit him. You're not going to beat him with a computer or a piece of paper or a pencil. You gotta take a bat up there and hit him to score."
Bryce Harper, returning to the lineup following a two-game absence due to a strained left hamstring, smacked a solo homer to begin the scoring in the fourth.
The Nationals added four more runs in the sixth and another in the seventh.
Rendon ripped an RBI double, Harper hit an RBI single and Tyler Moore plated a pair with a base hit in the sixth. Taylor scored on a wild pitch in the seventh for a 6-0 Nats cushion.
Francisco Liriano (4-6) allowed five runs on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 5 2/3 frames for Pittsburgh, which has dropped the first two games of the series on the heels of an eight-game winning streak.
Dennis Martinez tossed the lone perfect game in the history of the Montreal/Washington franchise on July 28, 1991 ... Scherzer lowered his ERA to 1.76 this season ... Harper's homer was his 23rd of the season and set a career high.