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Nationals' ace Max Scherzer on the cusp of a return

Nationals' ace Max Scherzer on the cusp of a return

WASHINGTON -- Everything looked normal Monday: Max Scherzer in full uniform went to right field for his warmup throws, then walked into the Nationals’ bullpen for a full pitching session. He briefly lingered to talk it over with the regular denizens of the bullpen before exiting through the back entrance and looping back to the clubhouse.

It went well. He feels good. The expectation is he will start a game “at the end of the week,” according to Davey Martinez. Scherzer declined to put a projection forth. He’s just pleased to feel well. 

“I’m getting through the ball,” Scherzer said. “I feel great. I feel 100 percent. The ball is coming out 100 percent. It’s just a matter of making sure I got all of the feel for all the executions.”

Per usual, The Next Day is at issue. Scherzer expects no problems because he threw from a mound Saturday and felt “nothing” Sunday. If he comes in Tuesday feeling good, everything should be set for possibly Thursday to return and wrap a four-game series with Colorado. 

Scherzer thought he could pitch Sunday in Atlanta. He suggested as much to Martinez and others. Mike Rizzo, Martinez and team medical staff told him no.  

“[I asked], but it wouldn’t have been smart,” Scherzer said. “You need to see me off the mound. Can’t take that chance. I always want to pitch. If this was Sept. 28, I think, yeah, they would have let me go. But when you have so much season left. You can’t take that risk. So...I get it. If I ever think I can pitch, I’m always going to want to pitch. That’s why the ball’s in the trainer’s court, the ball’s in Rizzo’s court, the ball’s in Dr. [Robin] West’s court. They have to make that call. They didn’t make that call. I completely get why.”

A cortisone shot received seven days ago has proven effective. As has advice from former teammate Shawn Kelley, who had the same injury -- inflammation of his bursa sac below his right scapula -- three days before Scherzer. They talked, the shot was recommended and it helped right on time.

Scherzer said he has an idea what caused the issue, but chose not to disclose it. Though, he was adamant it has nothing to do with his workload this season.

Despite not pitching since July 6, Scherzer still leads the National League in strikeouts. He remains a top-tier Cy Young candidate. He also is desperately needed by a Nationals team which suddenly has a bit of disarray percolating in their rotation.

Assuming Scherzer is ready to return, the Nationals need to sort out the fifth spot in their rotation. Erick Fedde was scheduled to pitch Monday before the game was postponed by Major League Baseball because of inclement weather a day after Joe Ross put together a reasonable start in Atlanta. Austin Voth (right biceps tendinitis) remains on the 10-day injured list and is building strength in his arm. He expected to throw Monday.

The next two days are mostly lined up: Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin will pitch. Fedde could pitch the 1:05 p.m. start of Wednesday's split day-night doubleheader. If Scherzer pitches Thursday, Anibal Sanchez would be bumped to Friday to open the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Nationals could pitch Scherzer on Friday -- keeping Sanchez on turn -- and still have him to close the three-game series against Atlanta next week.

"[Tuesday] will be a big day,” Martinez said. “If Max comes in and says he has no issues, we’ll go from there.”

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Max Scherzer set to start Game 1 of the World Series

Max Scherzer set to start Game 1 of the World Series

HOUSTON -- The simplest decision often rests as the correct one.

In this case, the Nationals selecting Max Scherzer to start Game 1 of the 2019 World Series qualified as the simplest decision.

Washington let the options publicly simmer until Monday afternoon when Davey Martinez said Scherzer would start Game 1. Stephen Strasburg will follow. The Game 3 starter is to be determined.

Scherzer has not pitched since Oct. 12. Monday, he was in left field throwing, the crack of a catcher’s mitt among the few sounds in Minute Maid Park before the Nationals’ evening workout began, prior to skulking around on the center field warning track by himself.

The six-day break between games prompted by an NLCS sweep was key for the Nationals’ biggest strength, their starting pitching. Strasburg is No. 1 in pitches thrown in the postseason. Scherzer is No. 2. They are the only two to throw more than 300 pitches in the postseason. No pitcher in the major leagues has thrown more pitches than Strasburg this season.

Scherzer and Strasburg starting Games 1 and 2 in Houston means they are in line for Games 5 and 6, respectively. Patrick Corbin’s availability for Game 3 will be dependent on his bullpen role in Games 1 and 2. Corbin brewed a mess in his first relief outing of the postseason. He allowed six earned runs in ⅔ of an inning against Los Angeles in Game 3 of the National League Division Series before pitching more effectively in future relief appearances.

“I haven’t really thought about it because we’ve kept winning,” Corbin said. “That night stunk. The next day, after that series [I] was fine. Never really thought about it. Right now, I’ve had a lot of time off, about a week now, I’ll be fresh to come in and give what they want. I’ve felt fine. I’ve kind of developed a little routine down there to stay loose. If they need me, I’ll be available.”

The Nationals considered pitching Aníbal Sánchez in Game 1, which would bump Scherzer and Strasburg to Games 2 and 6, and 3 and 7, respectively. They opted to send out their biggest strength immediately in the series, then will figure out Game 7 (which would be the Game 3 starter on normal rest). Martinez will go step by step following the first two games. 

As for Scherzer, he opted to skip the canned answer and express his excitement about pitching the same game as Houston starter Gerrit Cole, who has dominated for more than a year. 

“Of course,” Scherzer said. “I mean, I've been in the situation, faced really good pitchers here in the National League over the years; [Clayton] Kershaw, [Jacob] deGrom, those guys. You just know you've got to come out there, you're going to be throwing up zeros. And you've got to try to match the intensity from your opponent.”

Taken away from Scherzer is his chance to hit. Howie Kendrick will be the designated hitter in the first two games. Scherzer said not being part of the offense alters the vibe of the game for him. 

“It's just a different feel to the game of not grabbing a bat,” Scherzer said. “I've definitely grown accustomed to doing that, it kind of keeps you in the game flow even more. It feels weird when you get to the DH and you're not in that flow of the game offensively.”

That will be his situation Tuesday night when he opens the World Series in Houston.

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How To Watch Nationals-Astros World Series Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream

How To Watch Nationals-Astros World Series Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream

With the Washington Nationals pulling off a clean sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, there was a rather long break before the team could make its much anticipated World Series appearance. But, that wait has reached its end, as Tuesday marks the beginning of this year's fall classic.

On Saturday night, the Washington Nationals learned of their opponent: the Houston Astros. The AL West division winners took care of the New York Yankees in six games, clinching a berth in the World Series with a walk-off homerun by Jose Altuve. For Houston, this will be the second World Series appearance in three seasons, as the team took home the title in 2017.

But, this team maybe even better than that one. The core of Altuve and Carlos Correa now also features a rising superstar in Alex Bregman and a stellar bat in Michael Brantley to make the lineup one of the most potent. As for the pitching rotation, it's equally as dominant. One could make the case for either Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole to take home the AL Cy Young, and the Astros have both. Oh, and they can also run out Zack Greinke for good measure. Cole hasn't lost a start since May (yes, you read that right) and while Verlander and Greinke have struggled at times in the postseason, they aren't exactly arms you want to face.

As impressive as Houston is, the Nationals pack their own punch as well. Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Juan Soto and NLCS MVP Howie Kendrick star in a lineup that has thrived on timely hitting in October. Add that to the four-headed monster of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez that handled the Cardinals with ease, and you have the formula for an exciting World Series.

It will be Scherzer against Cole in Game 1, here's everything you need to know about the series opener.

2019 World Series Game 1: Washington Nationals @ Houston Astros

Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Location: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX.

Time: 8:08 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Broadcasters: Joe Buck and John Smoltz

Live Stream: FOX Sports

Radio: 106.7 The Fan (Washington DC Market), ESPN Radio (Nationally)

Weather: 70° F

World Series Schedule:

Tuesday, Oct. 22:
- World Series Game 1: Nationals @ Astros. Time: 8:08 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Wednesday, Oct. 23:
- World Series Game 2: Nationals @ Astros. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Friday, Oct. 25:
- World Series Game 3: Astros @ Nationals. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Saturday, Oct. 26: 
- World Series Game 4: Astros @ Nationals. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Sunday, Oct. 27: 
- World Series Game 5*: Astros @ Nationals. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Tuesday, Oct. 29: 
- World Series Game 6*: Nationals @ Astros. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Tuesday, Oct. 30:
- World Series Game 7*: Nationals @ Astros. Time: 8:08 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

*If necessary 

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