WASHINGTON (AP) — Max Scherzer’s milestone performances don’t usually result in this kind of feeling.
The ace right-hander struck out 10 to move past 2,000 for his career, but was outpitched by Austin Bibens-Dirkx and the Texas Rangers beat the Washington Nationals 5-1 on Sunday for a sweep of their weekend series.
“It’s really cool,” said Scherzer, who also has two no-hitters, a 20-strikeout game and an NL Cy Young Award since joining Washington before the 2015 season. “But one of these days, I’ll actually reflect on it. It stings a little bit when you get it in a loss. But you just keep marching on.”
Scherzer (7-4) has 2,005 career strikeouts after fanning at least 10 batters seven times this season. He allowed three runs – two earned – and three hits in 7 1/3 innings.
By the end of the eighth, the Rangers had grabbed control against the NL East leaders on just one hit, aided by an error and a passed ball.
“It’s a tough loss, a tough series,” Nationals catcher Matt Wieters said. “But we’ve got to move past this and be ready to go to tomorrow.”
Bibens-Dirkx (2-0) allowed a run and three hits in seven innings in his second career start. The 32-year-old rookie retired 19 straight after Brian Goodwin’s first career leadoff homer and a single by Bryce Harper.
“I told my family I have to face Max Scherzer and (my wife said) ‘No, you get to,'” Bibens-Dirkx said. “(I said), ‘You’re right. I’ve earned the right to be here.'”
Shin-Soo Choo slugged his ninth homer and second in as many games as Texas completed its first road sweep of the season.
Scherzer reached the 2,000 mark when he got Nomar Mazara swinging a 1-2 slider that tailed inside to open the fourth inning.
He struck out the side in the fifth and cruised until the eighth, when he exited after Delino DeShields reached on third baseman Anthony Rendon’s error and pinch hitter Jurickson Profar walked.
“It’s just an unfortunate error, an unfortunate hop,” Scherzer said. “Sometimes that happens. And then I just couldn’t stay within the zone there in the eighth against Profar.”
Oliver Perez walked Choo to load the bases. DeShields scored on Wieters’ passed ball. Elvis Andrus hit a two-run triple and scored on Mazara’s sacrifice fly.
Bibens-Dirkx was sailing along before Rendon singled in the seventh. Adam Lind followed with a walk. After a visit from pitching coach Doug Brocail, Bibens-Dirkx got Wieters to ground out to end the threat.
“Very gutsy performance by Austin,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister, “going against a premier pitcher in Major League Baseball in Max Scherzer, knowing that you really have to limit any chances this lineup has.”
MORE INTERLEAGUE, PLEASE
After losing 11 of 14 overall before arriving in Washington, the Rangers’ sweep improved their interleague record to 10-2. Texas is 20-30 against the AL.
A QUICK 2,000
In terms of innings pitched (1,784), Scherzer is the third-fastest to hit 2,000 strikeouts behind Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.
“It’s crazy I’m even mentioned, I’m even among those guys,” Scherzer said. “Those are my pitching idols. I’m growing up watching those guys.”
Rangers: RHP Tyson Ross (thoracic outlet surgery) said he is ready to make his Texas debut after averaging 90 pitches over his last two rehab starts at Triple-A Round Rock. Banister did not commit to a return date. “My expectation is that if all things go well, his next start would be in the big leagues,” Banister said. “When that day is is undecided.”
Nationals: Closer Koda Glover was placed on the 10-day disabled list with lower back stiffness. Glover blew his second save in Saturday’s 6-3, 11-inning loss and afterward told manager Dusty Baker he had been dealing with “nagging” back pain all day. … Ryan Zimmerman (back) was out of the starting lineup for the third game in four days.
Rangers: Begin a three-game series Monday at Houston. RHP Yu Darvish (5-4, 3.18 ERA) is winless with a 5.81 ERA in his last six outings against the Astros.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg starts the series opener against Atlanta on Monday. He’s 6-1 with a 2.68 ERA against the Braves since 2015.