WASHINGTON -- Nationals ace Max Scherzer does not expect to miss any time after exiting his start against the Mets on Wednesday after one inning with a tweaked right hamstring.
“It’s not a major injury, or really a minor injury,” Scherzer said following Washington’s 3-1 loss at Nationals Park. “At the end of the day, it’s the old day-to-day thing.”
The right-hander actually had sustained what he described as an “ailment” last week while running sprints. He recovered in a day, then threw 112 pitches and struck out 10 over 7 1/3 innings in a win over the Blue Jays on July 29. Scherzer tweaked his hamstring again on Tuesday, but after experiencing that first quick turnaround, he thought he would be able to do the same vs. the Mets.
“This one was just a little bit different,” he said.
Scherzer noticed his hamstring was affecting his command while he tried to find the zone in the first inning. He also wasn’t able to fire off his right leg, a sign he would not be able to get through a full start. Catcher Kurt Suzuki told Scherzer he didn’t like how the ball was coming out of his hand.
“We just had a conversation [and decided to] just get out of here,” Scherzer said. “We were taking on too much risk continuing to pitch. I didn't injure it any further. I didn't do anything worse. That was my limit for today. I wasn't going to push past that limit. It wasn't going to loosen up anymore by pitching. We just all came to the conclusion if I wasn't going to be better than what I was going to give them [in the] first, then there was no reason to continue."
Scherzer had gotten off to a strong start in his 13th season. He entered the game with 21 strikeouts and a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings. But his evening on Wednesday ended after just 27 pitches (14 strikes). He allowed one run on one hit, walked one batter and struck out one. His fastball averaged 93.3 mph, down from his season average of 94.7 mph.
“We knew going in that he had tweaked his hamstring a little bit yesterday,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He said he felt fine. We had talked to him today again. He said he was good to pitch. But after the first inning, we thought differently and he agreed, and we just wanted to make sure that he gets right. He said after the game that he felt fine, so we’ll see what happens between now and his next start.”
The Nationals’ pitching rotation already has been struck with injuries this season. Stephen Strasburg has yet to make his 2020 debut because of a right hand nerve issue. Due to Strasburg's injury, the Nats had an arm available to step in for Scherzer.
Erick Fedde replaced Scherzer to open the top of the second. The right-hander, who was a final candidate for the fifth-starter spot, has filled in for Strasburg’s two missed starts. Even though Austin Voth was awarded the fifth spot in the rotation, Fedde has been staying ready this season as if he’ll be called upon to start, and he tossed three innings of one-run ball with three hits, three walks and one strikeout Wednesday.
From there, the Nationals ran through their bullpen to finish the game. By not playing games last Friday through Monday and having an off-day on Thursday, they had a selection of pitchers available. Sam Freeman, Wander Suero (season debut), Sean Doolittle, Kyle Finnegan and Javy Guerra all took the mound.
Scherzer and the Nats hope the next time he pitches, they won’t need so many relievers behind him. With a team off-day Thursday, he will have extra rest before he’s in line to make his fourth start of the season.
“That’s kind of nice to get him that extra day,” Martinez said. “Max is Max. The one thing about Max is, he’s going to be totally honest with me. He really is. He knows his body better than anybody. When he says he’s good, you take his word for it that he’s good.”