Both the Cardinals and Nationals were making their run toward October when the Nats came to St. Louis for a three-game set in the middle of September. The Cardinals were holding onto their lead in the National League Central and preparing for a four-game series at Wrigley Field, while the Nationals were holding onto their NL Wild Card lead.
Wainwright and Scherzer faced each other with the series tied 1-1, and Wainwright came out on top, allowing one run in seven innings in the Cardinals’ 5-1 win.
Now, the two veterans will pitch against each other again -- this time in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series presented by GEICO on Saturday in St. Louis.
“I told him after the game [in September], competing against him is like Christmas for me,” Wainwright said. “He's one of the best competitors out there, one of the greatest pitchers of our generation for sure. I think he's probably going to be a Hall of Famer, and it's just a privilege to get to compete against him.”
Scherzer allowed five runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Cardinals back in September, but he struck out 11 batters and didn’t walk anyone. Against the Dodgers in the NLDS, Scherzer came out of the bullpen in Game 2 and followed that with seven innings of one-run ball in Game 4 that sent the series back to Los Angeles for Game 5.
“Certainly any time you're competing against a guy like that, you know you got to put zeros up,” Wainwright said. “Our offense is very dynamic, there's a lot of people that can do some cool things, but a pitcher like Max is capable of going out and shutting anybody out. So from my point of view, I'm not so much pitching against Max except for once or twice, maybe three times through the order, as I am pitching against those hitters. I got to get those guys out, get zeros up.”
On the other side, the Nationals know they could get vintage Wainwright, who held the Braves scoreless in 7 2/3 innings during Game 3 of the NLDS, has a 2.79 postseason ERA and pitched extremely well at Busch Stadium this year with a 2.56 ERA. Having Wainwright pitch Game 2 sets him up for another home start in Game 6, if necessary.
“I pitched against [Wainwright] in Spring Training and in games and obviously in September, and you just know he's going to bring everything he's got,” Scherzer said. “Nothing will be different facing him tomorrow. That's what makes this game fun, is facing these great guys who can go out there and compete and lay it on the line like that, and he's obviously one of them. He's done it in the postseason and he's been a postseason ace.”
Gant left off NLCS roster again
The Cardinals stuck with the same 25 players that they had for the NLDS, which includes keeping reliever John Gant off the roster. Instead, they kept Génesis Cabrera -- who pitched one inning in the NLDS -- as the third left-handed reliever, as well as Daniel Ponce de Leon -- who did not pitch in the first round -- for length.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said that Gant will throw live batting practice Saturday with Michael Wacha, who is recovering from a right shoulder strain, to stay sharp in case either is needed as an injury replacement over the best-of-seven series.
Gant had a 2.22 ERA with 44 2/3 innings in the first half of the season, but he struggled with command in the second half, with a 6.65 ERA and only 21 2/3 innings.
“As far as going seven games… we would rather be pitching healthy,” Shildt said. “That we have [innings] and not feel like guys that we use in other situations have to grab them and then be compromised for additional situations moving forward.”