As the Nationals prepared to board a flight to Houston on Monday afternoon, Max Scherzer’s status to pitch again in the World Series was still uncertain.
Nats manager Dave Martinez hadn’t had the chance to speak with Scherzer before Monday afternoon’s teleconference with reporters. The team wanted to give Scherzer at least another 24 hours to see how his neck would respond to the cortisone injection he received the day prior before it could begin to make any assumptions about his availability in relief in Game 6 or to start a potential Game 7.
“As we all know, Max, he’s probably going to try and push the envelope a little bit,” said Martinez, whose Nationals trail the Astros in the World Series, three games to two. “But we want to let this medication kick in a little bit and then see where we’re at.”
Scherzer began feeling spasms in his neck and right trapezius muscle a few days ago, but by the time he woke up on Sunday morning, his neck “locked up on him,” leaving him nearly immobile. It forced him to miss his start in Game 5, with the possibility that he would be able to return later in the series. Nats team doctors told Scherzer the injection should have him feeling much better about 48 hours from Sunday, giving him and the team hope he would be able to pitch if the Nats force a winner-take-all showdown in Game 7.
If Scherzer can’t start Wednesday, Aníbal Sánchez would be on regular rest to start the game. He threw a bullpen session late Sunday night to stay in routine, as the Astros closed out a victory at the end of Game 5. Patrick Corbin could also be available in relief during the next two games in Houston, but he threw 96 pitches during his start in Game 4 on Saturday.
But the Nationals’ pitching plans will hinge on Scherzer and how much he improves over the next two days.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Martinez said. “We got to win this game to get to a Game 7, so these guys all know if we need them, they’ve got to be available.”
Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki said he was available to pinch-hit or catch in an emergency despite being out of the starting lineup the past two nights with an injury to his right hip flexor. Suzuki was scheduled to receive treatment and get further examined when the team arrived in Houston on Monday evening, but he felt confident in his status for Tuesday night’s Game 6.
“Everything’s looking good so far,” Suzuki said.