Real or not? Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber hot stuff on a cold night

They say it’s tough to hit in cold weather. We know it’s tough to hit Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber. Mix the two together and you get this:

Scherzer: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 SO

Kluber: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 SO

On a 45-degree night in Washington, Scherzer spun his fifth career shutout while facing just one batter over the minimum. It seems weird that it’s only his fifth shutout, but that’s because three of the first four were so memorable, all happening in 2015. He had a one-hitter with 16 strikeouts against the Brewers; the near-perfect game against the Pirates, lost with a hit batter with two outs in the ninth; and the 17-strikeout no-hitter against the Mets, another near-perfect game, marred only by an error.

On Monday night, the Nationals ace carved up the Braves in a 2-0 victory, working rapidly and efficiently, and appeared to get stronger as the game progressed, striking out two in the seventh and two more in the ninth, including Ender Inciarte with a 95-mph fastball to end it.

“You can’t get too caught up in trying to pitch a complete game because that’s hard to do,” Scherzer said. “You’re just trying to go out there and give seven innings. Seven innings and 105 pitches, that’s a good outing.”

It was Scherzer’s 17th career start with no runs and at least 10 strikeouts. Since his debut, only Clayton Kershaw, with 21, has more such games. He also added his first career stolen base, swiping second in the eighth inning and joking that he had asked previous managers Matt Williams and Dusty Baker for the green light. It was actually a smart play in a 2-0 game. Scherzer’s gem ended a five-game losing skid that had left the Nationals at 4-5 -- the first time they had been under .500 since Aug. 21, 2015.

Kluber entered his start without a win in two outings, even though he had basically made one mistake in each start -- both mistakes ended up as two-run home runs, by Nelson Cruz and Shohei Ohtani -- but a lack of run support left him with a loss and a no-decision. Kluber got only two runs to beat the Tigers on a 33-degree night in Cleveland, but that’s all he needed. The interesting aspect to this game was Kluber often pitched backward, especially with two strikes, going with his two-seamer instead of his wipeout curveball or cutter/slider. Eight of his strikeouts came with the sinker, seven of those looking.

How cool was it to see these two both dominate? It was the first time ever that the reigning Cy Young winners both threw eight scoreless innings and allowed two or fewer hits on the same day. These two also show that you can succeed in different ways. Scherzer obviously pitches with much more emotion; with the Klubot you don’t know if he’s up 10-0 or down 5-0, although he did smile at one point in this game as he walked off after a strikeout. He also has a strong case as the best pitcher in the game right now, with apologies to Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw:

It’s a game of inches: On this night of aces, Justin Verlander also dominated, pitching seven scoreless innings in yet another 2-0 game. Yes, the game was in Minnesota, where it was a balmy 35 degrees. I’m pretty sure this night of action set an MLB record for ski masks in use.

Anyway, after Verlander left the game, Miguel Sano just missed a three-run home run down the left-field line off Brad Peacock. In the ninth, Byron Buxton just missed a game-tying two-run homer off Ken Giles, also sailing a few feet foul. Buxton then grounded out to end it.

What was interesting there is A.J. Hinch called on Giles for only the final out. It was Giles’ first save (to be fair, it was also only the second save opportunity for the Astros). Hinch still seems to be slowly working Giles back into a key role after his rough October. The Astros are 9-2 even though they’re hitting only .247/.328/.397. They’ve allowed 25 runs in 11 games. As advertised.

Sticking with the theme: Forty-two degrees in Kansas City, ski masks, Jakob Junis takes a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Mariners. He settled for allowing only Dan Vogelbach's infield single over his seven innings and became the first Royals pitcher since Danny Jackson in 1985 with back-to-back starts to open the season of seven innings and no runs.

Is he for real? He’s definitely a sleeper. The stuff isn’t overpowering with low-90s heat and he fanned only three in a 10-0 win, but he knows what he’s doing out there and throws strikes with primarily a fastball/sinker/slider mix. He’s not going to beat himself. Keep an eye on him.

Finally, some offense! Nick Williams stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the eighth of a 5-5 game and did this for the Phillies, a towering 417-foot blast:

The other day, when asked why he hasn’t been in the lineup much, Williams responded, “I guess the computers are making it.” He later apologized to Gabe Kapler for his comment, but that led to tweets like this one:

Williams certainly showcased some promise as a rookie last season, hitting .288/.338/.473, but he also had a poor 97-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- par for the course for him given even worse ratios throughout his minor league career. His 2017 numbers were propped up by a high .375 average on balls in play.

There’s power here, but the projections see a guy with a sub-.300 OBP. Making fun of Kapler’s computers is a popular game in Philly right now, but Williams probably is more of a fourth outfielder than a future star.

Greg Holland’s hot mess: The reliever made his debut for the Cardinals in the top of the 10th and faced five batters. It went like this: walk, walk, sacrifice bunt, intentional walk, walk, Mike Matheny trudging to the mound.

Brewers win 5-4.

Maybe spring training is important.

Be nice, Cardinals fans:

The hot Mets: The Mets won again, beating the Marlins 4-2 behind a mere lukewarm effort from Noah Syndergaard (six innings, two runs, five strikeouts). The Mets are 8-1, but Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have started five of the nine games with deGrom slated to start again on Tuesday. Still, the 8-1 record ties the best nine-game start in franchise history (1985 and 2006).