WASHINGTON (AP) - Still, after his latest masterpiece Wednesday night, he said: "There's something about 20."
"Tonight was an emotional game, facing a former team and all those guys I have so much respect for," Scherzer said after pitching against the Tigers for the first time since leaving Detroit. "And so to have a game like this against that caliber of hitter on their side, it really puts a feather in my cap."
"It crossed my mind," said Scherzer, who did not issue a walk. "I was thinking of all the different scenarios in an 0-2 count that I could do to be able to get that last strikeout."
"That's some serious company," Scherzer said. "It won't sink in right now, but it's an amazing accomplishment."
After striking out the side in the eighth, all on called strikes, Scherzer was up to 18 on 106 pitches, with the Nationals holding a two-run lead.
Said Scherzer: "There really wasn't a conversation, to be honest with you. Everybody knew I wanted the ball, everybody was going to give me the ball."
Victor Martinez singled for his third hit before Scherzer got another All-Star bopper, Justin Upton, swinging at a low slider to tie the record.
Scherzer pounded his fist in excitement and went back to work. McCann, however, grounded an 0-1 pitch to third baseman Anthony Rendon, who threw to second for the forceout.
"Had to go through some tough, tough hitters there with Miggy and J.D. and Victor and all those guys over there," Scherzer said. "Those guys are unbelievable and they gave me a heck of a time tonight."
"That was one of the more dominant performances I've ever come across," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, also an opponent during Wood's 20-strikeout game and one of the two compiled by Clemens. "It wasn't quite as dominant as Kerry Wood and it was more dominant than Clemens."
"The fastball really just seemed to work for me tonight," Scherzer said.
Jose Iglesias homered early for Detroit.
He seemed to pick up steam late.
Scherzer followed that by striking out the side in the eighth, with Ian Kinsler staring at a 96 mph fastball at the knees to end the inning.
Zimmermann briefly backed out and tipped his helmet in appreciation, then became Scherzer's sixth strikeout victim, going down swinging on a curveball.
Tigers: Cabrera was back in the lineup after his pinch-hit single drove in a run in Detroit's 5-4 victory Tuesday. Ausmus decided to give the slugger a planned off day on Tuesday instead of Wednesday after Cabrera jammed his right knee sliding into second on Monday.
Nationals: Washington gets an off day before beginning a four-game, three-day set against Miami.