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Washington Nationals starting pitcher’s Stephen Strasburg (left) and Max Scherzer (right). (AP Photos/ Nick Wass and Alex Brandon)

Last Monday evening, around the fourth inning, a slight commotion stirred the stands at Nationals Park. Word had gotten out that the starting pitcher on the mound for the Nationals at that moment, Stephen Strasburg, had signed a new extension which will keep him in Washington for the foreseeable future. 

At seven years and $175 million dollars, it is a huge deal for both Strasburg and the Nationals.  The deal secures the services of one of the league’s premier pitchers when the market for dominant starting pitching is pretty barren. It was widely assumed that Strasburg would explore free agency after this season, so the ability of Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo and Strasburg’s agent Scott Boras to agree to a significant deal this early in the year demonstrates that the team is committed to winning. With all mega-contracts, there are always risks of injury or poor results, but the Nationals’ ability to start Strasburg and Max Scherzer on back-to-back nights for at least the next six years could reap tremendous benefits.

One of the main reasons fans watch sports is to witness incredible moments. They want to experience moments in time, sometimes unexpected, that make a contest memorable. On May 11, Scherzer provided fans with just such a moment, as he delivered a stunning performance. 

On a brisk night at Nationals Park, Scherzer wowed 35,000 fans in attendance with a 20-strikeout performance that tied the all-time record for a nine-inning game.  The feat has only been accomplished five times in the history of the sport, and Scherzer is now forever linked to such luminaries as Roger Clemens, who achieved the feat twice, Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson.

It was a performance unlike any seen before in Washington baseball, putting a charge into a crowd which marked the second largest attendance of a Nats game since Opening Day. Fans spent the majority of the final three innings of that game on their feet, hanging onto Scherzer’s every offering. The ballpark reached a crescendo in the ninth inning as he struck out former MVP Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton to record strikeouts No. 19 and 20, respectively. Scherzer is the first pitcher to accomplish the feat since Johnson in 2001; during that time there have been a total of 46-no hitters, including two by Scherzer himself.

“Tonight was an emotional game,” said Scherzer, who spent five seasons in Detroit, including 2013, when he won the American League Cy Young Award. “Facing a former team and all those guys I have so much respect for and how they play the game and how they compete. I really think the world how they go out there and play the game, and so to have a game like this against that caliber of hitters on their side, that really puts a feather in my cap.”

Scherzer’s performance and Strasburg’s signing weren’t the only significant happenings for the Nationals this week. Bryce Harper was ejected from a game on May 9 for cursing at an umpire after Clint Robinson’s pinch hit walk-off homer, and earned a one-game suspension for his tirade. Nonetheless, Washington still remains in first place in the National League East.