After Max Scherzer labored through seven innings of one-run ball in Game 4 of the Washington Nationals’ NLDS series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he told reporters the chances of him pitching in Game 5 were essentially nonexistent.
“My arm is hanging right now,” Scherzer said. “That pushed me all the way to the edge and then some.”
And yet, in the bottom of the 10th inning when Sean Doolittle entered the game to protect the four-run lead that had just come courtesy of Howie Kendrick’s grand slam, there was Scherzer in the bullpen. Just two days after he threw 109 pitches and saved the Nationals’ season, he was standing among the team’s relievers looking on as Doolittle closed out the victory.
Washington ended up not needing their ace to even throw any warmup pitches, but Scherzer said Friday afternoon ahead of the Nationals’ NLCS opener in St. Louis that he wasn’t just out there for appearances.
“When I played catch that day—I mean I went in with a zero percent chance I was going to feel good, knowing that the previous day on the flight out to Los Angeles I didn't feel good at all—and when I played catch, I didn't have any red flags through the elbow, the shoulder and the back, three main areas where I would be really concerned about for injury,” Scherzer said. “Those actually felt pretty good.”
“So talking with [pitching coach Paul] Menhart and kind of thinking here like, ‘Hey, if things got crazy here, I might have a couple batters in me. I might be able to give you a couple batters.’ And it's Game 5. Everything's on the line. Obviously, you wanted to use everybody else in the pen, but at that point if there was ever a situation where you needed to get an out or two, I said that I had at least a couple batters in me.”
There’s no telling just how strong Scherzer felt or how many pitches he could’ve thrown, but D.C.’s $210 million man wasn’t willing to sit idly by if the Nationals’ lead began to slip away.
“We had confidence in Doo, but it was one of those all bets are off in Game 5 when it's win or go home.”
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