HOUSTON – Sunday Max Scherzer could barely move.
But if his Nationals team managed to beat the Astros and Justin Verlander Tuesday night in Game 6 of the World Series, all indications are the ace righthander and three-time Cy Young Award winner will be able to give it a go in Game 7.
Indeed, a World Series lacking drama the first five games just got it.
“I’m good,” Scherzer said unprompted to a small group of reporters several hours before first pitch Tuesday after throwing in the outfield at Minute Maid Park.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez confirmed as much a short while later when talking to the media.
“He's good,” Martinez said. “He threw, he felt good. We'll see what transpires between now and [later] tonight. But he says he feels good. So, yeah, as of right now he'll definitely start Game 7.”
And, no, there will not be a pitch count. Not for a pitcher who grinded through five innings of Game 1, throwing 112 pitches [and earning the win after allowing two runs].
“If Max tells me tonight that he's good then Max will pitch until his neck decides he can't pitch anymore,” Martinez said. “I can't see myself telling Max, ‘you're only going to go 75 pitches.’ He's going to want to go out there and go as long as he can.”
On Sunday, of course, the notion of Scherzer playing catch, let alone starting a big-league game, seemed something even the most eternal of optimists might have dismissed out of hand.
The 35-year-old, who was supposed to oppose Gerrit Cole in Sunday night’s fifth game – a 7-1 Houston victory – woke up that morning with significant neck spasms.
The pitcher had dealt with similar spasms before, including this season, but knew it was different Sunday.
“I woke up this morning completely locked up. I couldn't do anything, couldn't even dress myself,” he said Sunday after struggling to sit down in a chair in the interview room at Nationals Park. “I had to have my wife help me. The moment I woke up…I couldn't get out of bed. Like, it really hurt to get out of bed. I had to just basically fall out of bed and pick myself up with my left arm and I was moving around, just couldn't even move my arm. I just knew at that point I was in a really bad spot.”
At that point Scherzer texted with the team trainer and Martinez and said he would not be able to pitch Sunday night. But Scherzer did show up at the ballpark that day and received a cortisone shot he hoped would take hold in 48 hours and give him a chance to start a seventh game, if his team got that far.
Scherzer, 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA and 243 strikeouts in 172 1/3 innings in the regular season and 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 25 innings this postseason, appears as if he’ll be able to do just that, even though it was slow-going initially after the shot.
“He couldn't do anything for 24 hours,” Martinez said. “He flew with us [to Houston Monday]. We put him in a neck brace.”
“We sat him up in first class, so he had a lot of room,” he continued. “So he woke up today, wanted to throw. Came out and threw flat ground. He let it air out and he said he felt good. Right now, like I said, we're at the point now where let's see how he feels in the next couple of hours. I just left him. I think he was doing a crossword puzzle right now and getting ready to do some treatment.”
Martinez said from what he observed, Scherzer looked “normal” throwing the flat ground session.
“Just like any other day he throws flat ground,” Martinez said. “He looked really good. Hoping, like I said, hoping he progresses from here to tomorrow. My guess is he comes out tomorrow and he's going to get prepared like he prepares any other game and he's ready to go and you're going to see Max be Max.”