Scherzer scratched from Game 5, Ross to start for Nationals
WASHINGTON (AP) – Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night because of spasms near his neck and was replaced by Joe Ross.
Washington manager Dave Martinez made the announcement 3½ hours before the first pitch. Gerrit Cole, who went 20-5 in the regular season, starts for Houston, with the Series tied 2-2.
Scherzer said the pain started a few days ago and he thought trainers would be able to help him pitch through it.
"When I woke up this morning it was completely locked up," Scherzer said. "It's not just a muscle spasm. The nerve that's in the neck is all jammed up."
He knew he wouldn't be able to pitch as soon as he tried to get up.
"I had to fall out of bed and pick myself up with my left arm," he said. "I couldn't even dress myself. I had to have my wife help me."
Scherzer said he could not lift his arm and had a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain caused by the nerve between the C5 and C6 vertebrae. He had a bandage on the back on his neck, slightly to the right.
He hopes to be available for a Game 7 on Wednesday.
"It's going to take at least 48 hours for this to kick in," he said.
Scherzer beat Cole in Tuesday's opener, and Martinez said he felt the spasm near his neck and trapezius muscle on his right side Saturday.
"Max, obviously he pitched with a broken nose," Martinez said. "When he comes in and says he's hurt this bad, he's hurt."
Ross has pitched just once in the postseason, throwing 19 pitches over two scoreless innings in Washington's 4-1 loss in Game 3 on Friday night.
"He's got good stuff, and he got his feet wet the other night, so that'll help him," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "To make an emergency start in Game 5 of the World Series against the Houston Astros, he'll have to control his emotions ... and just follow the game plan and see what happens."
A 26-year-old right-hander, Ross was 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA in 27 appearances, including 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA in nine starts.
Before Friday he last pitched Sept. 29, starting against Cleveland on the final day of the regular season and getting the win by allowing one run and four hits in six innings while throwing 78 pitches.
"We're going to let him go as much as he can go," Martinez said.
Game 6 starter Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen session on Saturday and was not an option to face the Astros on three days' rest.
"I think everybody is dealing with the effects of a long season," Strasburg said. "So you really just kind of focus on what you can control. Sometimes things are out of your control."
Rizzo and Martinez said Scherzer's injury was not related to the back problems that caused the 35-year-old right-hander to go on the injured list this summer and limited the pitcher to an 11-7 record with a 2.92 ERA in 27 starts. A three-time Cy Young Award winner, Scherzer had bursitis in his right scapula and a strained rhomboid muscle in the right side of his upper back.
"He just locked up," Martinez said. "He was in a bad place. Like I said, he's really upset about it. I've never seen – believe me, I've never seen Max this quiet."
Scherzer said Saturday his back was fine but that he planned to adjust his offseason training after this year's injuries.
In the playoffs, Scherzer is 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in five appearances, four starts. He labored through five innings in Game 1 of the World Series, allowing two runs and throwing 112 pitches, to get the win.
"I wasn't stunned," Rizzo said. "I was surprised that it worsened overnight. Like a lot of neck or back things, it got worse overnight."
Astros manager AJ Hinch learned of the switch when third baseman Alex Bregman saw a notification on his phone and asked whether it was true.
"We're not going to high five. We're not going to have that moment where we feel like we have some sort of advantage," Hinch said. "We need to go find a way to beat Joe Ross now."
Houston Game 6 starter Justin Verlander remembered Scherzer's tenacity from their time together on the Detroit Tigers.
"It's got to be pretty bad," Verlander said. "He was a competitor, always wanted to take the ball."