Posted on October 1, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Washington Nationals Max Scherzer

Image via sportingnews.com

Saturday’s start for Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer was supposed to be one final tuneup before the playoffs. Instead, things did not go according to plan, as Scherzer was pulled in the 4th inning amidst concerns over his hamstring. The Nationals maintain that the issue was merely a cramp and that Scherzer was taken out of the game as a precaution. However, he did require an MRI after the game that revealed a slight tweak but nothing too serious.

“We took him out for precaution,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said after the game. “We gotta make it to the playoffs healthy. So we thought it was better that we make that move, the precautionary move, to get him ready.”

During the 4th inning, Scherzer landed awkwardly after delivering a pitch. That prompted a meeting on the mound with Baker, pitching coach Mike Maddux, and head trainer Paul Lessard. Despite Scherzer’s insistence on staying in the game, Baker quickly made the decision to take him out.

“It was time for us to make a decision,” Baker said. “Max didn’t want to come out. We thought it was best. Max never wants to come out. We thought it was best for him and us for him to go out.”

“(Scherzer) threw a pitch, and I didn’t know if he slipped on the dirt. It looked awkward,” explained Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “So I went up there and asked him, ‘Are you all right?’ And he said, ‘Yeah. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine.’ And came out and talked to the trainers. There’s really no point in doing anything right now. But he said, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ I guess we’ll see.”

The Nationals have cause to be a little extra cautious with Scherzer. He required a DL stint earlier this season because of neck inflammation. He was a late scratch because of neck spasms on one occasion and left another start after just one inning because of the neck issue. Earlier this month, he had a start cut short because his calf tightened up after being hit there by a long drive.

After Saturday’s game, Baker insisted that Scherzer being taken out will have no impact on his availability for the NLDS. The manager said that if it were a meaningful game, Scherzer “probably could have stayed in the game.”

When he hasn’t been battling neck issues, Scherzer has put together another Cy Young-caliber campaign. In 31 starts he’s 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA, the lowest of his career. Even with a few shortened outings, Scherzer has eclipsed the 200-inning mark for the fifth consecutive year. Even with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez also being in the Cy Young conversation this year, Scherzer is expected to lead Washington’s rotation into the playoffs.

The Nationals have not yet announced their NLDS rotation. But many expect Scherzer to start Game 1 and either Game 4 or 5 later in the series. It remains to be seen whether his early exit Saturday could force the Nationals to reconsider.

Scherzer could potentially be moved so that he only makes one start in the NLDS. Even something as simple as rearranging the rotation could be seen as a setback for the Nationals. Washington is confident Scherzer’s hamstring won’t be an issue moving forward. But it should be at least a slight concern considering the timing of it.

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