WASHINGTON — With two games to go and nothing to gain or lose in the playoff picture, the Washington Nationals sent Max Scherzer to the mound on Saturday night for his last tuneup before taking the ball in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday.
In the fourth inning, a nightmare scenario played out when Scherzer felt hamstring discomfort, having “tweaked a hammie” by his account. He was immediately lifted from the game, replaced by A.J. Cole, and sent to receive an MRI.
“I went there and it showed exactly what we thought. Nothing major,” he told reporters on Sunday. “More of a tool to help know how we should treat it. We have a pretty good idea of what we need to do to get back out there.”
The good, albeit strange news is that Scherzer suffers so real ill effects of the injury.
“The good news is, I can walk and run around on this,” he said. “It’s not like a major strain or anything that’s too debilitating, so I’m pretty upbeat and positive going forward here.”
“I wouldn’t have come out if that was a playoff game. It was just something that I couldn’t take a chance going any farther, knowing that I felt that tweak and there’s nothing good that can come out by continuing to pitch there. It is what it is.”
Manager Dusty Baker agreed that the move was precautionary, but rejected the idea that he would gamble on health in the playoffs.
“C’mon man, I don’t know. I hope it doesn’t ever pop up again,” he said, shaking his head at the reporter who asked, before allowing: “In a bigger situation, he probably could have stayed in the game.
“He didn’t want to come out. Max never wants to come out. But we thought it was best for him and us for him to come out.”
Scherzer had another marvelous campaign in 2017, leading baseball in complete games (two), strikeouts (269) and WHIP (0.902). He will be one of the favorites to bring home the NL Cy Young award, even though he finished short of goals to start 34 games.
This is the third minor injury he sustained in the second half of the season, twice injuring his neck and shoulder on both sides, and now his right leg.
Scherzer shied away from predicting his availability for Game 1 vs. the Cubs, while still expressing confidence.
“That’s tough to say right now. We’re not even 24 hours out,” he said. “We’re still trying to get all the doctors to take a look at this and make sure that we have the absolute correct diagnosis. But we have a really, really good idea of what we’ve got here.”