(Photo Credit: REUTERS/GEOFF BURKE)
Since 2013, Max Scherzer has been one of the best pitchers in the game. He's won three Cy Young Awards in the last five years and two of them consecutively with the Washington Nationals. Before Scherzer, all the talk was centered on Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw, who won three Cy Young Awards in a four-year span from 2011 to 2014. But Kershaw has been plagued by injuries each of the last three seasons and Scherzer has taken advantage of the opportunity to show who he is.
In what could be the Nationals' last chance to bring a World Series title to the Nation's Capital, at least with Bryce Harper at a bargain price, Scherzer has led a dominant rotation to bring the Nationals back into the NL East race after a slow start to the year. The offense will still need to contribute for Washington, but Scherzer has guaranteed the Nationals a good outing every five days all year, leading just about every pitching category in the NL.
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A Triple Crown?
The Nationals as a team have slowly picked up the pace with the rest of the division and that's thanks to the utter dominance of Scherzer. Scherzer's in good company too, as he's looking to be the first pitcher in the NL since Randy Johnson to win three straight Cy Young Awards, and Johnson won five in a row with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1999 to 2003. Winning five in a row could be askin a little too much but if Scherzer keeps up his dominance, it's not out of the question.
Scherzer's also looking to be the first pitcher since Johan Santana in 2007 to win the Pitching Triple Crown, which would give him the league lead in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. Other than strikeouts, he's a third of the way there at this point in the season and with St. Louis Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez on the disabled list and second in the league with a 1.62 ERA, Scherzer could easily take over the lead during the heat of the summer if Martinez falls out of the qualifiers' list.
A Pitching Triple Crown would guarantee Scherzer his third consecutive Cy Young Award, but a World Series title could also guarantee the award if he fails to win the Triple Crown. Washington has one more chance to win it all before Bryce Harper takes his talents elsewhere in search for a title. Not to say Scherzer would do the same but if the Nationals don't look to be contending with the up-and-coming Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, Scherzer could end up in the same boat and go look for work elsewhere.
How it's rubbing off
Scherzer isn't the only pitcher dominating in the rotation either. Like the Houston Astros in the AL, the Nationals have two other pitchers in Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez that are among league leaders in innings pitched, ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP. The Nationals arguably have had the best rotation in the National League since Scherzer arrived in 2015, but haven't been able to win it all with what they have.
Scherzer will have to continue his dominance all season and avoid nagging injuries that force him to leave starts early if the Nationals want to stay in the NL East race. His early case for Cy Young is showing in the Nationals' play this month but no pitcher has won more than two consecutive Cy Young Awards since Randy Johnson, and Max Scherzer will have to be better than ever to make his case at the end of the year.