Scherzer walked none, though he did allow a pair of solo home runs, to Jose Iglesias in the third inning and to J.D. Martinez in the ninth. Scherzer also allowed the tying run to reach base with a single in the ninth before striking out Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton to tie the record.
James McCann grounded out to third base to end the game, denying Scherzer a chance at sole possession of the record.
Scherzer threw 119 pitches.
With his 20 strikeouts, Scherzer matched Roger Clemens (1986 and 1996) and Kerry Wood (1998) for most strikeouts in a nine-inning MLB game. Randy Johnson also struck out 20 in nine innings in a game in 2001, though that game went into extra innings.
The most strikeouts overall in a game is 21, set by Tom Cheney, who pitched 16 innings for the Senators against the Orioles on Sept. 12, 1962.
Twenty! Max Scherzer has struck out 20 batters in a game. pic.twitter.com/W7IDDUxzD7— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 12, 2016
Scherzer's previous career high was 17 strikeouts, set on Oct. 3, 2015 against the Mets, when the right-hander threw his second no-hitter of the season.
This was also the first start for Scherzer against the Tigers since leaving Detroit as a free agent after the 2014 season. Scherzer spent five years with the Tigers, averaging 16 wins, 203 innings and 216 strikeouts per season and winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2013. He is in the second season of a seven-year deal with the Nationals.
Scherzer broke the Nationals/Expos franchise record for strikeouts, which was previously 18, set by Bill Gullickson for Montreal against the Cubs on Sept. 10, 1980.