The Nationals’ strategy on Friday -- one so aggressive that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts admitted it caught him off guard -- may have resulted in evening the National League Division Series, but it also might have come at the cost of their Game 3 starter.
The club will need to wait and see if Scherzer’s body responds in time to be able to pitch. If it doesn’t, Game 3 will go to Aníbal Sánchez, and Scherzer will likely get pushed back to Game 4, ahead of Stephen Strasburg for a potential Game 5 -- with Patrick Corbin available for relief along the way.
"We'll see," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "I talked to him now. I'm going to see how he feels tomorrow. We'll -- I want to make sure he gets a night. He's working out right now, and we'll see how he feels tomorrow."
After Strasburg struck out 10 over six stellar innings and Sean Doolittle allowed a run in the seventh, Scherzer was called upon for the eighth inning, and he delivered. The right-hander struck out the side.
Scherzer, for his part, voiced his unequivocal willingness to take the ball if called upon for Game 3.
“It doesn’t matter,” the three-time Cy Young Award winner said. “For me, you bring it whenever you’re told to bring it. This is the playoffs. You lay it on the line every single time you touch that field. Whenever I get the ball next, I get the ball and you just lay it on the line.”
The Nationals’ usage of Scherzer on Friday had some precedence. It was his scheduled day to throw a side session between starts, so they felt that could be accomplished by appearing for an abbreviated outing. Scherzer knew he could be called upon to help hold a late lead, and he was on board.
The same was done with Strasburg during Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game. Whereas Strasburg threw 34 pitches in his relief appearance against the Brewers, Scherzer threw just 14 pitches (11 strikes) on Friday, striking out the side while flashing 99 mph on the radar gun.
And if the Nationals liked the Strasburg trial enough to try it again, they’ll be encouraged by the fact that Strasburg responded to his in-game side session very well on Friday.
But the Nationals have been cautious with Scherzer since back and shoulder problems derailed his second half of the regular season. While on-field results left concerns -- a 4.74 ERA in his final seven regular-season starts -- he’s consistently reported a clean bill of health after each of his recent outings.
That belief will be put to the test more than ever over the next 48 hours.
“Just take care of my body, take care of my arm,” Scherzer said of his plan before Sunday. “Do whatever I can. At this point in the season, whenever you get the ball, you go out there and compete. It doesn’t matter how you feel.”
Robles sustains hamstring tweak
The one sobering takeaway from the Nationals' Game 2 win is the health of center fielder Victor Robles. Robles appeared to pull up awkwardly while trying to beat out a sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning before departing alongside head trainer Paul Lessard. He was replaced by Michael A. Taylor in center field the next half inning.
Martinez said after the win that Robles’ tweaked his hamstring and is considered day to day.
“We're going to see how he feels in the morning,” Martinez said.
If the Nationals need to trudge forward without Robles, Andrew Stevenson is the most likely candidate to replace him on the roster. Stevenson -- who was on the Wild Card roster and appeared as a pinch-runner -- provides another speedy outfield option and is a left-handed hitter. Taylor would take over as the starter in center field.
Washington would need to receive permission from the Commissioner’s Office to replace Robles. That would rule him out for a potential NL Championship Series, as well, causing a difficult decision depending on how serious the ailment is.