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Liner leads to short, but effective Scherzer start

Hit in calf in 1st inning, Nats' ace out after 5 frames of 1-run ball as precaution
MLB.com @JamalCollier

MILWAUKEE -- Max Scherzer was struck in the left leg by a 90.8-mph comebacker in the first inning Saturday night, but the ace still battled to complete five innings in the Nationals' 3-2 victory against the Brewers.

Scherzer did not initially show any effects from Travis Shaw's liner, as the right-hander retired the Brewers in order his first time through the lineup. As the game went on, however, Scherzer's calf tightened up on him. The Nationals eventually decided to take Scherzer out of the game after five innings and 75 pitches, not wanting to put their ace in unnecessary risk while also fearing that Milwaukee would attempt to bunt with Scherzer hindered on the mound.

Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- Max Scherzer was struck in the left leg by a 90.8-mph comebacker in the first inning Saturday night, but the ace still battled to complete five innings in the Nationals' 3-2 victory against the Brewers.

Scherzer did not initially show any effects from Travis Shaw's liner, as the right-hander retired the Brewers in order his first time through the lineup. As the game went on, however, Scherzer's calf tightened up on him. The Nationals eventually decided to take Scherzer out of the game after five innings and 75 pitches, not wanting to put their ace in unnecessary risk while also fearing that Milwaukee would attempt to bunt with Scherzer hindered on the mound.

Full Game Coverage

"It was something where I could pitch on it, but I couldn't run," Scherzer said. "I could feel in my mechanics that I was still getting through the ball, so I knew I wasn't in danger of hurting my arm. It was just one of those things, I wanted to be out there to compete. I competed as long as I could."

Video: WSH@MIL: Scherzer discusses comebacker off leg

Scherzer was using a crutch to walk out of the Nationals' clubhouse following Saturday's game, but did not sound concerned about his calf. The ball struck him directly on the muscle, which caused some soreness but should heal in a few days.

"Fortunately, it's just a muscle. They've got patches," Scherzer said. "These patches are miracles, so this should be pretty good pretty soon."

Scherzer retired the first nine batters in order before he began showing ill effects. He surrendered back-to-back hits to begin the fourth inning when manager Dusty Baker, team trainer Paul Lessard and pitching coach Mike Maddux rushed from the dugout to check on him, although he quickly shooed them off.

Video: WSH@MIL: Scherzer looked at by trainers in the 4th

But when Scherzer grounded out to end the top of the fifth, he barely made it up the first-base line. After the bottom half of the inning, the Nats determined he had gone far enough.

"I'd rather be out there competing in pain than be on the DL," Scherzer said. "For me, today was fun. Today was fun to be out there having to pitch through that. When you've got to go out there and give everything you've got, sometimes this happens and you've just got to make the best out of it."

Video: WSH@MIL: Scherzer shaken up after running to first

Scherzer has endured a few minor injuries during the past month. Some neck stiffness caused him to leave a start after one inning against the Marlins on Aug. 1. He pitched six days later and made his next start, but ended up landing on the DL again with inflammation on the other side of his neck, which cost him a turn through the rotation.

In the midst of another dominant season, an outing like Saturday's illustrates another dimension to Scherzer's game -- the ability to pitch effectively even when he is not at his best.

"He gutted it out for us tonight for five innings on one leg pretty much," left-hander Sean Doolittle said. "Not only is he physically tough, but I think what separates him from some other guys is his mental toughness and still being able to execute pitches when he's not feeling 100 percent. He almost seems to exert his will over guys and find ways to get outs and continue to get outs even when he's not 100 percent, and that's what an ace does."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, Max Scherzer