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Max Scherzer landing on 10-Day DL could put Washington Nationals in a treacherous position...

It could be minor, or it could be something bigger, and something bigger could be what keeps the Nats out of the NLCS.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Early Friday evening, the Washington Nationals announced that Max Scherzer wouldn’t start against the San Diego Padres tonight due to tightness in his neck, the second such instance in four starts in which the injury sidelined Scherzer.

Later, the team announced that they had placed him on the 10-day DL with left neck inflammation.

The Nats’ ace suffered from neck spasms in an earlier August start against the Miami Marlins, in which he exited after only one inning due to tightness in the right side of his neck, which a trip to the chiropractor supposedly cured.

It seemed like a non-event of an injury, one that would ultimately end up being forgotten and meaningless on the Nationals’ inevitable journey to the postseason.

This time, Scherzer felt the tightness in the other side of his neck, and told the team he couldn’t start before the game.

Unfortunately, this injury may have different implications, for a few reasons.

First, seeing as this is the second instance of the same injury, even if it seems minor, there still may be some underlying cause that the team will need to look at.

That could mean MRIs, doctors, chiropractors — you name it — until the Nationals have a satisfactory explanation as to what’s going on here.

The explanation could just be that Scherzer forgot his special pillow at home again and yet again slept on his neck oddly, and the Nationals may have simply put him on the DL to nip the issue in the bud and let Scherzer relax.

In that case, everyone could breathe out and expect to see Scherzer in about a week, as the team placed him on the DL retroactive to August 15th.

Or, if the team chooses to have Scherzer get an MRI and some underlying cause shows up, or if another cause is diagnosed, a strain of some muscle in the neck or back, then things become significantly more complicated.

In that case, the team would most likely immediately shut down the right-hander from participating in any baseball activities, even ones as simple as playing catch.

Given that we don’t know the cause of the injury, it’s hard to know how long it would take Scherzer to recover and return — it could be a week, it could be a month, it could be more.

No matter what, a rehab process would still most likely be required, which, depending on how long Scherzer’s disabled list stint lasts, could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Here’s the kicker: if Scherzer is out for a prolonged time both recovering from and rehabbing his injury, then he may not return for a solid month or so.

A solid month or so would slot Scherzer’s return for around September 20th — very tricky timing for him to be ready for the playoffs, as he’d realistically only get two or three starts before postseason play.

However, it would ultimately be okay, even if it wasn’t ideal.

But say he suffers a setback, one that keeps him out for a little longer, past that September 20th date.

Then the question of if he’ll be ready for the postseason begins to come up.

If Scherzer isn’t certain for the postseason, then suddenly everything is uncertain.

Without Scherzer, is it realistic to expect the Nats to contend in the postseason? If he’s ready by the end of the regular season, but doesn’t get a start before October, can the Nats throw him out there? If he’s almost ready, is it worth rushing him?

Suddenly, the Nationals would be thrown into a rabbit hole of epic proportions, one that very well could dictate what the story of the 2017 club would be.

It’s equally, if not more possible, that Scherzer just slept oddly on his neck again and will be back sooner rather than later, and will once again leave no question as to if he’ll be ready for October.

That’s what the Nats will certainly be hoping for — a quick and easy return.

Otherwise, a first-round exit may be calling their name, yet again.