CHICAGO -- During the Washington Nationals' first two postseason games against the Chicago Cubs, star pitcher Max Scherzer has been relegated to the role of observer, unable to take an active role.
But after two days of "champing at the bit" to take the mound Monday as the deadlocked best-of-five National League Division series shifts to Wrigley Field, Scherzer is confident he can give the Nationals everything they've come to expect from their ace.
Scherzer hasn't pitched since Sept. 30 when he left his final regular-season start with what he referred to at the time as a "small tweak" in his right hamstring. The reigning National League Cy Young winner was scheduled to pitch Game 1 against the Cubs, but was pushed back to Game 3 to provide him extra time to build more strength and endurance in his hamstring.
In recent days, Scherzer has worked with team trainers to get his hamstring as close to 100 percent in order to give him every chance to work as long as Washington needs in Monday's pivotal Game 3.
"I'm very confident as soon as I toe the rubber, I'm going to be good on pitch one," Scherzer said Sunday. "It's (about) how long can I go without re-injuring this and that's where we've done everything we can to make sure I can throw 100 pitches and not have this happen.
"When I'm on the mound (Monday), I'm fully anticipating being able to throw 100 pitches."
Scherzer won his only start against the Cubs this season and is 3-1 in six career starts against Chicago.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he's not concerned about Scherzer, but said he will keep a keen eye on any signals that might be telling in how the right-hander is feeling.
Meanwhile, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he will likely add another left-handed bat to his lineup against Scherzer. Maddon referred to Scherzer as "oppressively difficult" against right-handed hitters.
The Cubs overcame being no-hit for 5 2/3 innings in Game 1 against Stephen Strasburg to pull out a 3-0 victory to take an early series lead. But after the Nationals scored five times in the eighth inning in Saturday's 6-3 victory to even the series, Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber said it's just a matter of keeping the right approach against Scherzer.
"It's Scherzer -- we all know he's got good stuff," Schwarber said. "But we're not afraid of the name on the back (of the jersey). We're going to go out and execute what we want at the plate."
While the Cubs prepare to face Washington's ace, Chicago will counter with Jose Quintana, who will make his postseason debut. Quintana, who was acquired from the crosstown White Sox in a midseason trade, will face the Nationals for the first time in his career.
Despite Quintana's lack of playoff experience, Maddon points to performances Quintana made late in the regular season when the Cubs were still in a fight for a Central Division title. Like Scherzer, Quintana will take the mound looking to give his team an edge in the series.
Quintana said he feels no pressure.
"I (will) just go try and get focused, pitch by pitch (and) control my emotions every time," Quintana said. "I think that's the huge part for me -- especially when it's my first time here."