WASHINGTON -- Closer.
Max Scherzer threw a second simulation game Saturday. It went well, lasted 64 pitches, four innings and was delivered under awkward circumstances while a Q&A session with Nationals broadcasters blared through the stadium speakers.
Scherzer was engaged. He struck out Yan Gomes, then spiked a ball to the ground while on the mound. He circled the mound, jogged in and out of the dugout, tolerated the circumstances. Mike Rizzo, Davey Martinez, Paul Menhart and trainer Paul Lessard were among the viewers.
“He wants to be on the mound,” Martinez said. “He wants to help us win. But this is part of it. He’s going to help us win. This is part of it. And hopefully [Sunday] he wakes up, feels really good, and then we’ll go from there.”
Scherzer could be back Thursday in Pittsburgh. The usual “ifs” apply here. If he feels well Sunday, if he throws a bullpen session Monday, if he feels well Tuesday, his first start since July 25 could come against the Pirates.
“We’re trying to schedule everything as if: Today he pitched,” Martinez said. “He’s got five days. So he’ll be on his regular routine.”
If Scherzer pitches Thursday, the Nationals could manipulate his future schedule to give him seven starts to close the season, including a start against the Mets, two against the Braves, one against the Phillies and have him be ready for an Oct. 1 wild-card start, if necessary.
However, the extended time away because of scapula and rhomboid injuries will snap Scherzer’s decade-long streak of making at least 30 starts. He’s made 20 so far this season.
The Nationals remain locked into his long-term health. Scherzer will be on a pitch count -- around 75-80 -- when he does return. If he comes through that first start well, he should be close to full strength from then on. At least, that’s the hope and premise for Martinez.
Scherzer’s return will carry dual benefits. First, it will be a boost to the contending Nationals, who are 11 games over .500 for the first time this season. Second, it will end the debates between Martinez and Scherzer about the injury timeline.
“I can’t wait,” Martinez said. “I want to see Max Scherzer on the mound pitching for the Nationals. He’s never had this before. It’s something new for him. So we’re all anxious for him to get back on the mound and help us win.”
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