The smallest of hits decided a huge pitching matchup.
Max Scherzer overwhelmed batters to dominate a Cy Young Award-winning duel with Corey Kluber, reaching double-digit strikeouts for the 100th time.
After striking out three times against Scherzer, Gleyber Torres blooped a tying single in the ninth inning and won the game with a 50-foot single into a five-man infield that gave the New York Yankees a thrilling 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
“Especially with the five-man infield, you don’t usually expect to see an infield single like that to win a ballgame,” Aaron Judge said. “But Gleyber’s been hitting the ball — he’ll hit it right at somebody110 mph and it’s an out, and sure enough he had two hits today that were 50, 60 mph off the bat — if that. That’s the crazy game we play.”
Scherzer, coming off a five-hitter that beat Miami at home last Sunday and the birth of son Derek Alexander less than two hours after the final pitch, struck out 14 in 7 1/3 innings, allowed two hits and walked one.
Scherzer joined Nolan Ryan (215), Randy Johnson (212), Roger Clemens (110) and Pedro Martínez (108) as the only pitchers to strike out 10 or more at least 100 times.
“It’s pretty cool to join the club,” Scherzer said, “but it’s tough for me to put really put that in perspective. I think that’s more for other people, the other pitchers that pitched before me and obviously guys after me.”
In a matchup totaling five Cy Youngs, Washington built a 2-1 lead against Kluber on Juan Soto’s bases-loaded wal k in the third and Starlin Castro’s single in the sixth that followed Kyle Schwarber’s double.
Kyle Higashioka’s home run on a hanging slider had tied the score at 1 in the third.
“If I could execute that pitch better, maybe maybe we win the game,” Scherzer said.
Closer Brad Hand walked DJ LeMahieu leading off the ninth, Judge hit an opposite-field single to right and Torres followed with bloop single to right that tied it 2-all.
“Just mechanically was a little bit off,” Hand said. “Had a tough time commanding my fastball.”
Victor Robles’ leadoff single against Aroldis Chapman and Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly scored the automatic runner to put Washington ahead 3-2 in the 10th.
Mike Ford, in a 1-for-23 slide, fouled off a bunt attempt, then hit an opposite-field single to left evened it 3-3 against Hand to drive in the automatic runner leading off the bottom half.
Justin Wilson (1-0) struck out two in a perfect 11th. With automatic runner LeMahieu on second to start the bottom half, Tanner Rainey (0-2) walked Giancarlo Stanton on a full count and Judge on four pitches.
Washington went to a five-man infield with three on the left side, inserting Jordy Mercer to the infield in place of Schwarber, the left fielder.
With a 1-2 count, Torres tapped a slider off the end of his bat, a slow hopper between the mound and third.
“Oh, man,” Torres recalled thinking when he realized he hardly made contact.
Rainey reached for it with his bare hand, and it bounced off as he approached the foul line.
“I may have rushed it a little bit,” Rainey said. “May have had more time than I thought.”
New York got back over .500 at 17-6 with its first walk-off win this year. Washington fell to 13-16.
“Take a win any way we can get it,” Kluber said. “Every win counts the same, whether it’s a 10-0 game or you come back and kind of fight and claw and get one like we did today.”
Winner of the 2013 AL Cy Young and the 2016 and ’17 NL honors, Scherzer moved into 20th on the career strikeout list with 2,845, passing Mickey Lolich (2,832).
Kluber, the AL Cy Young winner in 2014 and 2017, allowed two runs, six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings with six strikeouts.
The game started after a 2:25 rain delay.
BACK IN THE FIELD
Soto returned to right field for the first time since April 19 after recovering from a strained left shoulder.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) threw a bullpen Saturday and is to throw a simulated game Tuesday.
Yankees: 1B Luke Voit (knee surgery March 29) could be activated Tuesday at Tampa Bay. … 3B Gio Urshela (left knee) is likely to play Sunday or Tuesday. … LHP Zack Britton (elbow surgery March 15) threw a bullpen Friday that included sliders and is to throw another Tuesday. He’ll pitch a simulated game next Saturday, then start a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment.