Nats pick Stras­burg to pitch Game 1; Scherzer start un­known

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports -

WASH­ING­TON - Stephen Stras­burg will start Game 1 of Wash­ing­ton’s NL Divi­sion Se­ries against the Chicago Cubs, Na­tion­als man­ager Dusty Baker an­nounced Thurs­day, and two-time Cy Young Award win­ner Max Scherzer might not pitch be­fore Game 3.

Scherzer tweaked his right ham­string dur­ing his last reg­u­lar-sea­son start and by­passed planned bullpen ses­sions dur­ing work­outs at Na­tion­als Park on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day.

Lefty Gio Gon­za­lez did throw off a bullpen mound Thurs­day, mak­ing it seem likely he would start Game 2 on Satur­day. The se­ries opens Fri­day night at Wash­ing­ton.

Gen­eral man­ager Mike Rizzo said the team would not de­cide on a Game 2 starter un­til later Thurs­day. Baker said ei­ther Scherzer or Gon­za­lez would get Game 2, and the other Game 3.

“A lot of it de­pends on our eval­u­a­tion of Scherzer,” Baker said.

For the sec­ond day in a row, Scherzer threw on flat ground in the out­field but did not go through a bullpen ses­sion off a mound, which starters usu­ally do two or three days be­fore a game.

Baker had said Tues­day that the plan was for Scherzer to test his leg in the bullpen Wed­nes­day; on Thurs­day, Baker again said Scherzer would have a bullpen ses­sion.

“When you have a nag­ging in­jury, ev­ery day is im­por­tant for our train­ers to eval­u­ate it, put hands on him, and see if he’s still sore or if he’s feel­ing said.

Be­cause of days off in the sched­ule, who­ever pitches in Game 2 could be avail­able on reg­u­lar rest to start Game 5, if there is one.

Asked whether that could be a fac­tor in the de­ci­sion of when Scherzer is used, Baker said: “Is that worth tak­ing a chance — and if you get past the first round, then are you jeop­ar­diz­ing the sec­ond round? So you have to kind of weigh both. But the health of Max, I think, is No. 1.”

The Cubs al­ready an­nounced their pitch­ing plans, say­ing Wed­nes­day that their ro­ta­tion would be Kyle Hen­dricks in Game 1, Jon Lester in Game 2, Jose Quin­tana in Game 3 and Jake Ar­ri­eta in Game 4, if there is one in the best-of-five se­ries.

Scherzer is a two-time Cy Young win­ner, in­clud­ing tak­ing the 2013 AL honor while with the Detroit Tigers. This sea­son, he topped the NL in strike­outs with 268 and fin­ished sec­ond with a 2.51 ERA, while lead­ing the Na­tion­als in wins at 16-6. great,” Baker

Stras­burg, mean­while, has been just about as dom­i­nant in 2017, go­ing 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA and 204 strike­outs — and par­tic­u­larly ter­rific down the stretch, with a 5-1 record and 0.84 ERA in his last eight starts.

“This is what we brought him here for — to be a No. 1 starter in the play­offs. He’s been our horse,” Rizzo said. “He has the reper­toire, char­ac­ter and makeup to be a No. 1 starter.”

Game 1 will be just the sec­ond ca­reer post­sea­son ap­pear­ance for Stras­burg, the No. 1 over­all pick in base­ball’s 2009 am­a­teur draft.

The right-han­der went five in­nings in a 2014 game against the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants, but oth­er­wise was shut down for the 2012 play­offs a year af­ter hav­ing Tommy John surgery, then was side­lined by an arm in­jury at the end of last sea­son.

“I’m ex­cited for the op­por­tu­nity to pitch in the play­offs again. It’s one thing you re­ally can’t take for granted,” Stras­burg said, “and you’ve got to make the most of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity you get.”

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