Scherzer, to the Max: Records 3,000th strikeout, immaculate inning and falls five outs shy of perfect game vs. Padres

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Max Scherzer made history as only he can Sunday, recording his 3,000th career strikeout, pitching an immaculate inning and falling just five outs shy of a perfect game against the San Diego Padres.

Scherzer, 37, became the 19th pitcher to reach the 3,000-strikeout plateau when he fanned Eric Hosmer on a nasty full-count changeup for the second out of the fifth inning. The crowd at Dodger Stadium – his home only since a July 30 trade from the Washington Nationals to the contending Los Angeles Dodgers – roared its approval with a standing ovation, as Scherzer joined former teammate Justin Verlander as the only active players to reach 3,000 strikeouts.

Little did the crowd know the grander implications of Hosmer swinging at a likely ball four.

Scherzer rolled through six perfect innings on just 66 pitches – striking out the side on nine pitches in the second for his third career immaculate inning – before recording a pair of harrowing outs to keep his perfect game alive through the seventh.

Leadoff batter Trent Grisham skied a fly ball to right field, where Mookie Betts retreated into a deep crouch, shielded his glove from a bright sun that vexed outfielders all day, before reeling the ball in. Scherzer followed by throwing three consecutive balls to start Adam Frazier's plate appearance, but rallied back to retire Frazier on a fly to left.

Six outs away.

Scherzer threw a pair of no-hitters in 2015, but was just a strike away from a perfect game when he hit Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder Jose Tabata in the left elbow – or did Tabata lean in? – with a pitch. Scherzer finished that no-hitter and then no-hit the Mets in his final start that season.

That history surely was on Scherzer's mind as the eighth began with a Tommy Pham groundout to third. But Hosmer clubbed a hanging changeup out of Betts' reach in the right field corner, ending Scherzer's bid for his first perfect game and third no-no.

Weep not for Scherzer, whose day ended after the top of the eighth in a sea of bro hugs in the Dodgers dugout and a 6-0 lead, before Los Angeles tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the frame to win 8-0.

Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer salutes the Los Angeles crowd after recording his 3,000th career strikeout.
Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer salutes the Los Angeles crowd after recording his 3,000th career strikeout.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner has placed himself firmly into the conversation for a fourth such honor since the Dodgers acquired him from Washington. The Dodgers have won all eight of Scherzer's starts, and he's 6-0 with a 0.88 ERA, with 71 strikeouts and just five walks in 51 innings as a Dodger.

His ERA for the season is now a major league-best 2.17, topping Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes (2.25) and teammate Walker Buehler (2.32) atop the National League. His 219 strikeouts are second only to Philadelphia's Zack Wheeler.

Scherzer is a free agent after this season, and whoever signs him will witness a climb up historical leaderboards. Scherzer will likely pass Verlander (3,013 strikeouts) for 18th place on the all-time list by the end of this season. Another 200-strikeout season in 2021, and he'll climb to 12th all-time, passing Pedro Martinez, Bob Gibson and John Smoltz, among others.

This is his eighth season of at least 200 strikeouts in his 14-year career, and it should be his 11th year making at least 30 starts. Scherzer's near-maniacal between-start running and training regiment has kept him healthy and, most of the time, indomitable since the Arizona Diamondbacks traded him to the Detroit Tigers after the 2009 season.

"To me, it’s a testament to durability, making my 30-plus starts year in and year out," Scherzer said Sunday.

"Many have the ability to do this. Few have the durability."

And the Dodgers have needed his very best. They're 28-11 since acquiring Scherzer and Trea Turner from Washington, yet have picked up just a half-game on the San Francisco Giants in that run.

Even if they fail to catch the Giants, they'll still be sitting pretty, what with Scherzer, Buehler and 17-win lefty Julio Urías available for a potential wild-card game.

It's a lofty set-up for a wild-card club – especially when the Dodgers have Scherzer, once again the biggest problem on the mound in the major leagues.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Max Scherzer reaches 3,000 strikeouts, loses bid for perfect game