Scherzer set for G7 after testing arm in Houston
HOUSTON -- Before Max Scherzer ducked back into the clubhouse, moments after playing light catch in the outfield on Tuesday afternoon prior to the Nationals' 7-2 victory in Game 6 of the World Series, he stopped to provide his own assessment to reporters about the status of his neck injury.
“I’m good,” Scherzer said.
And with the Nats forcing a Game 7, Scherzer will be on the mound to start, manager Dave Martinez confirmed Tuesday night.
"Max is starting [Game 7]," said Martinez, who also addressed Scherzer throwing in the bullpen during Game 6. "We got him up knowing that if the game is tied or we were up a run we might have to use him. He wanted to go down there and just throw and get loose. We scored some more runs and I immediately shut him down."
Just two days prior, Scherzer was unable to lift his right arm after spasms in his neck and right trapezius muscle caused him to miss his scheduled start in Game 5. He received a cortisone shot on Sunday morning, which team doctors told him would take about 48 hours to alleviate the pain.
Scherzer threw off flat ground for about 10 minutes on Tuesday, going through his windup and throwing motion, while not exerting his full energy. But even that is a major step forward from his status on Sunday. So even though Martinez did not want to push Scherzer to be available in relief for Game 6, the Nationals can take some comfort in knowing that in a winner-take-all Game 7, Scherzer awaits.
“If Max tells me tonight that he's good, then Max will pitch until his neck decides he can't pitch anymore,” Martinez said. “I can't see myself telling Max, 'You're only going to go 75 pitches.' He's going to want to go out there and go as long as he can.”
Scherzer started feeling muscle spasms a few days prior and believed he would be able to pitch through it until Sunday morning, when he said he woke up and his neck “locked up on him.” With his body nearly immobile, he was scratched from his start and replaced by Joe Ross, who gave up four runs in five innings, as Washington lost its third straight game to Houston to fall into a 3-2 deficit in the World Series.
Although he took a day off from baseball activities, Scherzer was able to fly with the team to Houston on Monday afternoon -- “We put him in a neck brace. We sat him up in first class, so he had a lot of room,” Martinez said with a laugh -- before he resumed throwing on Tuesday. The Nats would have Aníbal Sánchez available on regular rest to start Game 7, with Patrick Corbin available from the bullpen. But Martinez expressed confidence in the plan to give the ball to Scherzer, and that his effectiveness would not be hampered by this injury.
“Today, he looked normal, just like any other day he throws [on] flat ground,” Martinez said. “He looked really good. Hoping, like I said, hoping he progresses from here to tomorrow. My guess is he comes out tomorrow and he's going to get prepared like he prepares any other game and he's ready to go. You're going to see Max be Max.”
Few athletes are as outwardly competitive as Scherzer, whose desire to never come out of games caused him to go viral in GIF form earlier this season. The amount of pain it required to keep him off the mound in Game 5 was “ungodly,” as described by Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. But the Nats’ hopes in this Fall Classic could be significantly improved by the return of their ace and three-time Cy Young Award winner.
“They'd probably make a movie about it, I bet, if he could,” right fielder Adam Eaton said. “He could come back from the dead...
“If there's an opportunity to do it, it would be pretty sweet, honestly. I think guys would really feed off it.”
Catcher Kurt Suzuki, who has not played since Game 3 because of a right hip flexor injury, said after Game 6 that he would be in the lineup to catch Scherzer in Game 7.