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Max Scherzer set up to start Game 7 if Nationals get that far

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning of Game 1 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, in Houston. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning of Game 1 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, in Houston. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)
By Ben Walker Associated Press

HOUSTON – Max Scherzer is all warmed up.

The Washington ace put aside his recent injury woes for a little light tossing in left field Tuesday, a day before he hopes to start for the Nationals in Game 7 of the World Series.

“I’m good,” he said.

Scherzer was scratched from Game 5 about 3 1/2 hours before it began because of an irritated nerve near his neck. He got a cortisone shot while the Houston Astros tagged emergency starter Joe Ross in a 7-1 romp.

Stephen Strasburg was set to pitch Game 6 for the Nats. With a win, Scherzer would take the ball in an all-or-nothing showdown against Zack Greinke at Minute Maid Park.

“As of right now, yes. I think he talked to some of you guys already. He gave you thumbs up, didn’t he?” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.

“He’s good. He threw, he felt good. We’ll see what transpires between now and tonight. But he says he feels good. So, yeah, as of right now he’ll definitely start Game 7.”

For how long?

“If Max tells me tonight that he’s good, then Max will pitch until his neck decides he can’t pitch anymore. 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.”

Martinez said he couldn’t imagine using Scherzer in relief during Game 6. Scherzer has come out of the bullpen for postseason appearances in the past, but Martinez said it would be “pushing it” to try that now.

The 35-year-old Scherzer outpitched Gerrit Cole to win the opener. The three-time Cy Young Award winner said it would take about 48 hours for the painkiller to have an impact, and he threw under the watchful eye of pitching coach Paul Menhart.

The Nationals took extra precautions to make Scherzer comfortable on their flight Monday from Washington to Houston.

“He couldn’t do anything for 24 hours,” Martinez said. “We put him in a neck brace. We sat him up in first class, so he had a lot of room.”

“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,” he said. “I just left him. I think he was doing a crossword puzzle right now and getting ready to do some treatment.”

Scherzer had a bandage on his neck Sunday at Nationals Park after getting scratched.

“I feel so bad for that man,” Adam Eaton said. “I don’t know how he’s ever going to function outside of baseball because he’s literally part of baseball in the sense of how he – everything he does is wrapped around his starts, his work.”

Now, Scherzer hoped for a chance to return for the biggest game of all.

“They’d probably make a movie about it. I bet, if he could, he could come back from the dead,” Eaton said.

“If there’s an opportunity to do it, it would be pretty sweet, honestly. I think guys would really feed off it,” he said.

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