For a shot at another National League Division Series berth, the Washington Nationals are unsurprisingly going with their ace.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez told reporters Friday that Max Scherzer will be the team’s starting pitcher for the NL wild-card game, according to MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. Fellow top starters Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are also expected to be available out of the bullpen.
Max Scherzer will start the NL Wild Card game on Tuesday.— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) September 27, 2019
Dave Martinez just made it official. Both Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are expected to be available out of the bullpen
Scherzer last pitched for the Nationals on Tuesday and won’t see the mound for the team again until the wild-card game on Oct. 1, giving him a full week of rest.
Facing Scherzer will either be the St. Louis Cardinals or Milwaukee Brewers in a game that could also be either home or away, depending on how every team’s final series of the season shakes out. The Cardinals are currently in first place in the NL Central at 90-69, a game ahead of the 89-70 Brewers. Whoever finishes second in the division will face the 90-69 Nationals, with the team owning the better final record hosting the game.
Scherzer was one of three options for Nats
While going with Scherzer for a winner-takes-all game is unsurprising for anyone who has watched the last five seasons of Nationals baseball, it might be surprising to hear he only ranks third in bWAR in his own rotation this year.
That’s because Strasburg (6.3) and Corbin (6.1) both sit ahead of Scherzer (5.8). That trio takes up three of top four spots in the entire NL in bWAR, behind only New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom (7.3).
Those stats come with the large caveat that Scherzer missed time and struggled on the mound with a back injury for much of the second half. It might be of some worry that he has still been struggling, holding a 5.16 ERA in five September starts.
Will Scherzer get his postseason moment?
Scherzer’s resume as one of the best pitchers of his generation — three Cy Young Awards, seven All-Star nods, three strikeout titles, two no-hitters, a 20-strikeout game, two immaculate innings — is indisputable at this point, but he hasn’t quite looked like an ace in the postseason during his Nationals tenure.
The Nationals are 0-4 in postseason games in which Scherzer has appeared, with the pitcher holding a modest 3.72 ERA in his four appearances. His most recent appearance was out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the 2017 NLDS against the Chicago Cubs, taking the loss after yielding four runs (two earned) in one inning of work.
With the Nats’ wild-card game, Scherzer gets a chance at cleaning up the lone blemish on his reputation. He’ll have plenty of back-up in Strasburg and Corbin, but it’s clearly his time to assert himself as the Nationals’ top player, both now and historically.
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