Nats pick Strasburg to pitch Game 1; Scherzer start unknown

Washington Nationals' pitcher Max Scherzer throws during a baseball workout at Nationals Park, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Washington. The Nationals host the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)Washington Nationals' pitcher Max Scherzer throws during a baseball workout at Nationals Park, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Washington. The Nationals host the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Sports Writer

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg will start Game 1 of Washington’s NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs, and Nationals manager Dusty Baker said before Thursday’s workout that the team still hadn’t decided whether Max Scherzer would pitch in Game 2.

Scherzer, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, tweaked his right hamstring during his last regular-season start. Either he or lefty Gio Gonzalez will start Game 2, and the other will get 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 great,” Baker said.

It was Gonzalez who was on the bullpen mound Thursday.

Baker said the Nationals would pick a Game 2 starter before the NLDS opens Friday night in Washington. Game 2 is Saturday, and the series shifts to Wrigley Field for Game 3 on Monday.

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.

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.

Game 1 will be just the second career postseason appearance for 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.

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AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

 

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