WASHINGTON — Hours after he had been scratched from his start in Sunday night’s Game 5 of the World Series, three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer was so fragile his voice shook. He held his right shoulder lower than his left. The slightest turn of his head required a hard effort, starting at his waist.
“I can’t pick up my arm right now so I can’t pitch,” he said, and, “I’m as disappointed as I could possibly be.”
Scherzer, with Stephen Strasburg the Washington Nationals co-ace, said he experienced minor neck spasms Friday and Saturday and awakened Sunday morning to discover the symptoms had worsened, to the point he was unable to dress himself. His wife assisted. On his drive to Nationals Park, he’d texted teammate Joe Ross, his tentative replacement for Game 5, telling Ross the start would be his. The content of the text, Scherzer said, was, “Get ready.”
Into a series tied at two games apiece, then, the thunderbolt that one of the sport’s finest pitchers would miss his scheduled start and was questionable to pitch in any capacity in the final two or three games. Scherzer received a Cortisone injection into the area — his right trapezoid, he said, was also affected — that doctors told him could require 48 hours to alleviate the pain.
The Nationals were to fly Monday to Houston. Game 6 is scheduled for Tuesday night, Game 7 for Wednesday night.
“I’m just hoping that the doctors are right,” Scherzer said, “and that something could be possible for Game 7.”
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer was scratched from his Game 5 start on Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Back and shoulder ailments had limited Scherzer to 27 starts and 172 1/3 innings in the regular season, both at or near career lows. Those injuries, he said, were not related to his current physical issues. He pitched earlier in the season with a broken nose, suffered in a bunting drill the day before, and expressed frustration Sunday he could not pitch through his current pain.
“I’ve dealt with other little neck spasms, little issues in the past, as well,” he said, “both on the right and left side and I’ve always been able to kind of address it and keep it from really getting out of hand. Unfortunately, this one got out of hand. … This is just a little thing that turned into a big thing that turned into a giant thing.
“It’s not just a muscle spasm. In talking to the doctors here, the nerve that’s in the neck is all jammed up. Thankfully, from the doctors, what they say, as long as I have no numbness coming down my arms or anything, you don’t actually deal with anything serious, any long-term damage there.”
Ross pitched two innings in Game 3 of the World Series, his only postseason appearance. Strasburg is scheduled for Game 6. Game 7 would fall on regular rest for Aníbal Sánchez, though the Nationals would almost certainly prefer to pitch Scherzer, if he is capable.
“I went around and talked to a bunch of the boys and explained what was going on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “They were all upbeat. …Every one of them said, ‘We got this. We’ll pick him up.’”
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