Max Scherzer followed Anibal Sanchez’s near no-hitter with a try of his own, and the stingy Washington Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 on Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series.
Scherzer didn’t allow a hit until Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh inning with a single that left fielder Juan Soto played conservatively with a one-run lead. A day earlier, Sanchez held the Cardinals hitless until pinch-hitter Jose Martinez singled with two down in the eighth.
Sanchez and Scherzer also began the 2013 American League Championship Series with consecutive no-hit bids of at least five innings for Detroit against Boston.
Scherzer, a St. Louis native who played college ball for the University of Missouri, struck out 11 and walked two in seven innings.
It doesn’t get any easier for St. Louis either. Stephen Strasburg gets the ball when the best-of-seven series moves to Washington for Game 3 on Monday night. Jack Flaherty pitches for the Cardinals.
St. Louis got another solid performance from Adam Wainwright, who struck out 11 in 7 1/3 innings. But after getting only one hit in the opener, the Cardinals’ inconsistent lineup managed just three hits against Scherzer and the Washington bullpen.
The NL Central champions got their first run of the series when center fielder Michael A. Taylor misplayed Martinez’s pinch-hit liner into an RBI double with two out in the eighth. But Dexter Fowler flied out on Sean Doolittle’s next pitch.
Patrick Corbin got the first out of the ninth before Daniel Hudson closed for his third save of the playoffs. The right-hander was reinstated from the postseason paternity list before the game after he missed the series opener to be with his wife, Sara, for the birth of their third child, a girl named Millie.
Corbin is expected to start Game 4 for the Nationals on Tuesday night.
Scherzer, who has pitched two no-hitters in the regular season, has a record five career postseason no-hit bids of at least five innings, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The three-time Cy Young Award winner came closest to finishing in Game 3 of the 2017 NL Division Series, getting one out in the seventh inning before allowing a hit.
There have only been two postseason no-hitters. Don Larsen threw a perfect game for the New York Yankees against Brooklyn in the 1956 World Series, and Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 NL Division Series.
The Cardinals got one baserunner into scoring position while Scherzer was on the mound. Kolten Wong walked with one out in the first and stole second, but Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna struck out.
After Goldschmidt’s hit, Ozuna struck out again and Yadier Molina bounced into an inning-ending double play on Scherzer’s final pitch of the afternoon.
Washington went ahead to stay when Taylor homered on Wainwright’s first pitch of the third. The Nationals added two more on Adam Eaton‘s two-run double down the first-base line with one out in the eighth.
Nationals: C Kurt Suzuki returned to the starting lineup after being sidelined by a head injury. He got hurt by a foul ball that ricocheted during Washington’s clinching victory in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers on Wednesday night. OF Victor Robles was out of the lineup again because of a strained right hamstring. He got hurt in Game 2 against Los Angeles.
Flaherty struck out eight in six innings in St. Louis’ 13-1 victory over Atlanta in Game 5 of the NL Division Series on Wednesday. The right-hander turns 24 on Tuesday.
Strasburg made two starts against St. Louis this season, going 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA. He has allowed four runs in 15 innings in the playoffs.