WASHINGTON -- Doubt about who will pitch in Tuesday’s Wild Card Game closed Friday when Davey Martinez announced Max Scherzer would handle the initial work.
Now, everyone begins adapting to the news.
Scherzer said Saturday the move had been in the works for a while. Washington wanted to line up Scherzer to start -- but also Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin to be available. Strasburg will be on regular rest Tuesday. Corbin should be available for an inning (or, ideally for the Nationals, needed to pitch less). If Washington has its ways only four or five pitches will appear in the game: Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle.
The appearance will be Scherzer’s first in a Wild Card Game. He’s made 13 prior postseason starts and three relief appearances. He took the loss in Game 5 of the 2017 National League Division Series the last time he was on a postseason mound.
And, if there was a case to choose Strasburg instead Scherzer, it would be rooted in their postseason results.
Scherzer’s postseason ERA is 3.73 and a bit skewed by his most recent appearance -- the dreaded fifth inning in Game 5 of the 2017 NLDS. Strasburg’s 14 shutout innings in the same series dragged his postseason ERA to 0.47. However, there’s a distinct gap in sample size: Scherzer has pitched 82 postseason innings; Strasburg just 19.
Regardless, Scherzer starts here, ready to ride the adrenaline of the day.
“Don’t try to shy away from it,” Scherzer said of his advice to a player in the postseason for the first time. “Don’t try to calm things down. Don’t make it any different. Rise to the occasion. Just rise to the atmosphere. Use it. Use it to your advantage. My first postseason, they were like, slow everything down, slow everything down. That doesn’t work for me. It just doesn’t. Learned quickly, no, you rise to it and that’s when I started pitching better.”
He’s unconcerned about location. Washington can clinch homefield for the game with either a win Saturday or Sunday, or a Milwaukee loss either day. Its Magic Number for such a setup is one -- against Milwaukee. The Brewers are just a game behind St. Louis for the National League Central Division lead with two games to play. St. Louis has lost three consecutive games. Its Magic Number to clinch the division is two. It is a game behind the Nationals and holds the tiebreaker with Washington.
“Would it be nice? Yes,” Scherzer said of homefield. “But is it imperative? No. We’re ready to play anybody, anywhere. We get it. It’s most likely going to be the Brewers. Obviously, they’re a tough opponent, but we’re ready to play anybody, anywhere.”
MORE NATIONALS NEWS:
- MLB's top jerseys: Nationals players overlooked
- A matter of balance: Nationals game plan for the end of the regular season
- Postseason matchups: Who might the Nats line up against?