NEW YORK – A few minutes after Max Scherzer threw his second no-hitter of the season, after his Washington Nationals teammates drenched him in what tasted to him like some combination of beer and chocolate sauce in the visitor's clubhouse at Citi Field, he sat at a table in a news conference room in a red Nationals T-shirt and his Nationals cap. Both stood out against the royal blue background behind him, which was covered in Mets logos, a fitting snapshot of the complicated context in which Scherzer made history Saturday night with a 2-0 victory in the second game of a doubleheader.
No one had thrown two no-hitters in a regular season since Nolan Ryan in 1973 before Scherzer did it Saturday night. No Nationals pitcher had ever struck out 17 hitters in one game, nor nine in a row, before Scherzer did that, too.
"Speechless," said Scherzer, presented with those facts, already the team's single-season strikeout king, now the first man in four decades to be so dominant. "You go out there and try to accomplish as much as you can, have as much success as you can, but to be talking about that stuff, you don't even have words for it."
Earlier Saturday, Washington manager Matt Williams faced questions about whether he had lost the clubhouse. A week before, the team he was supposed to lift to a World Series title was eliminated from playoff contention.
Last Sunday, closer Jonathan Papelbon tried to choke star outfielder Bryce Harper. A day later, Scherzer nearly threw a no-hitter. Saturday, he did it, though as he reflected on the moment, the logos for the NL East champion Mets behind him served as reminders that while he gave the Nationals one memorable night in October, they were supposed to have far more.
"That's why this is bittersweet," he said. "We wish we were playing longer into October, but we're not."
But while the game that carried little meaning to the visitors, Scherzer made it matter. As fiery as ever, he sucked up the chaos and replaced it with magic, painting a trying final week with a coating of hope.
The Mets — now on a five-game losing streak that cost them home-field advantage in the Division Series against the Dodgers — did not start their regulars, though they threw them all at Scherzer in the ninth, when he had already struck out 15, seven in a row. He struck out pinch hitter Yoenis Cespedes — eight in a row. He struck out Lucas Duda, his 17th of the game. Then Curtis Granderson popped out to third baseman Yunel Escobar — whose throwing error proved the difference between a no-hitter and perfection — to end it.
"That's where I had to check myself and say, 'Hey, stay within yourself,' " Scherzer said. " 'Don't let the intensity, the moment get too big. Just do what you do.' "
Scherzer shoved disappointment away for a night — one that ended with his arms in the air, charging toward catcher Wilson Ramos to do the duo's handshake, just as they did when Ramos caught Scherzer's no-hitter against Pittsburgh — another playoff-bound team — on June 20. Ramos has caught three no-hitters since the end of last season.
"That was amazing for him," Ramos said.
Philadelphia's Roy Halladay did throw two no-hitters in 2010. The first was a perfect game at Florida; the second, against Cincinnati, came in the Division Series. Johnny Vander Meer, who pitched two in a row, Virgil Trucks, Allie Reynolds and Ryan also threw two no-hitters in the same year.