The NL East champion Washington Nationals know who their starter will be in Game 1 of the NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers. There are, however, still decisions to be made when it comes to the Nats’ bench players and bullpen arms... and their No. 2 starter.
Max Scherzer is getting the nod in the series opener. Baker confirmed that much on Tuesday, rather matter of factly, actually.
“Can you officially say that Max Scherzer is your Game 1?” a reporter asked.
“Yes,” Baker responded.
“Who’s your Game 2 starter?” another reporter wondered.
“We’re unsettled,” Baker said, “but we do know that Max is pitching Game 1. I think you did too.”
Scherzer finished the second season of his 7-year/$210M deal with the Nationals (20-7) with a 2.96 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 56 walks (2.21 BB/9), 284 Ks (11.19 K/9) and a .196/.265/.365 line against in 228 1⁄3 innings pitched, putting himself in the discussion for the NL Cy Young award.
After the regular season finale, in which he Scherzer earned his 20th win, Baker was asked if the 31-year-old right-hander was the best starter he’s ever managed?
“He’s — I had Billy Swift, a 20-game winner. John Burkett. I had Jason Schmidt. I had Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.”
“He’s the most determined pitcher that I’ve had,” Baker said. “I think he’s one of the most determined individuals that I know.
“I used to get bugged watching him on TV when he was with the Tigers, but I love him on my team, cause he walks around and stuff, it’s like he’s out there by himself kind of. He don’t care about TV, he don’t care about how he looks, he don’t care about nothing other than winning and getting the hitter out, and I really saw that against his former team, the Tigers, that’s when I really realized what this guy was all about.”
The start against Detroit was, of course, Scherzer’s 20-K outing in May, when he tied the major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
He led all major leagues pitches with his 284 strikeouts total on the year, and became just the second Nationals’ starter to reach the 20-win plateau (2005-present).
Baker did everything he could to get Scherzer his 20th win and he was happy that the Nationals stepped up to support their starter in his final regular season outing.
“I’m very happy, because I mean he was so determined,” Baker said after Scherzer drove in four runs on his own in what ended up a 10-7 win.
“That’s what we’ll never hear the end of,” Baker said of the RBIs. “I was very happy for him.”
Up next for Scherzer is his start tomorrow night in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
After that? The Nationals still weren’t saying who will get the nod in Game 2 as of this afternoon, but GM Mike Rizzo did talk about the decision-making process in his weekly appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies.
“We haven’t even decided on what the strategy is in Game 2 yet,” Rizzo said.
“Obviously, Tanner [Roark] is our next pitcher, but there are some strategy thoughts that we might have. I don’t want to get too cute with it guys, there is some strategy involved. What happens in Game 1? How do you use your bullpen?
“Because as you guys know, especially in these five-game series, every game is Game 7.
“You want to win that game and we’ll worry about the next game tomorrow. So we’ll see what happens there, but Roark is our No. 2 guy. He’s a guy that we’d like to have lined up to pitch not only early in the series, but late in the series also, but he’s such a warrior, he’s in no matter what you do with him. He proved that last year. He’s a team player and does what is asked of him and he’s as good a teammate as anybody in the league.”
Roark was one of several pitchers to throw a live bullpen session during Wednesday’s workouts, but Baker would not say it was in preparation for a start on Saturday.
“Tanner wanted to throw today,” Baker said.
“All the guys either threw in the bullpen or whoever wanted to face live hitters.”
Maybe the Nationals will announce the Game 2 starter today... or whenever they finally make the decision.