“Before we get started,” Davey Martinez told reporters at the start of his pregame presser before Game 5 of the World Series last night, “I want everybody to know that Max will not start today.
“He had -- yesterday he had a little bit of spasms in his right trap and neck. They treated it. He woke up today a lot worse. So Joe Ross will start today.”
The announcement stunned the baseball world. A little over an hour and a half later, the Nationals’ 35-year-old starter met with reporters to explain the circumstances which led, ultimately, to the decision that he wouldn’t be able to take the mound.
“Yeah, I wake up, and the moment I wake up it just completely -- I couldn’t get out of bed,” Scherzer said.
“Like, it really hurt to get out of bed. I had to just basically fall out of bed and pick myself up with my left arm and I was moving around, just couldn’t even move my arm.
“I just knew at that point I was in a really bad spot.”
“I’m as disappointed as I possibly can be not to be able to pitch tonight,” Scherzer added.
“It’s Game 5 of the World Series.”
As Martinez said, the issue started as spasms in his neck and trap, but quickly developed into something more.
“Kind of started a couple of days ago,” Scherzer explained. “I could tell, little neck spasms. I’ve had little neck spasms over the past, I know how to get through them. It was a couple days ago trying to get everything going. Try to think of the time on here.
“I came in, got treatment two days ago, and didn’t feel quite right. But I know for me, like hitting, hitting is a similar throwing motion, usually if I can hit usually things can loosen up and I can throw a little bit better.
“When I hit, I could tell that didn’t loosen anything up. So it took throwing off.
“Then I came in yesterday, did all the treatment, worked with all the doctors trying to get everything situated. And through all the treatment and everything, getting ready, thought we found a way to ease this spasm, ease everything going on, going through it. And I thought I could at least play catch. I was able to play catch yesterday.
“And then when I woke up this morning I was completely locked up. 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 any serious, any long-term damage here.
“It’s just the sensory that’s pinching up the nerve in the neck and the trap, the whole muscles that surround your neck are just completely locked up in spasm.
“So for me it became impossible just to do any menial task whatsoever today.”
Scherzer was clearly, and understandably, frustrated by the whole situation.
“I can tell you now he’s very upset,” Martinez said before Scherzer spoke.
“He wants to be out there with his teammates. But hopefully we can get him back here for either Game 6 or 7.”
“He’s really upset about it,” the manager added. “I’ve never seen -- believe me, I’ve never seen Max this quiet. He’s very quiet.”
Scherzer, 35, has put up a 2.16 ERA, 11 walks, 34 Ks, and a .161/.255/.299 line against in five games, four starts, and 25 IP this month, but with the series tied, 2-2, and one of the teams heading to Houston tomorrow a win away from a World Series championship, the Nats’ ace wanted to be on the mound. But not at the risk of doing long-term damage, and not with a possibility that he could start in a potential Game 7.
He received a cortisone shot in the area that’s an issue, and said there’s some optimism that he could possibly be ready to go if there is a seventh game.
“That’s what the doctors believe, with this nerve irritation, that they think, with the cortisone shot in there, that the neck can take -- and 48 hours really helps decide the pain that’s being alleviated,” Scherzer said.
“Alleviate the pain from that neck nerve that’s in my neck right now that’s all pinched up.
“So for me, I’m just hoping that the doctors are right and that something could be possible for Game 7.”
But there was no way he was going to be able to go in Game 5.
He was adamant, however, that the irregularities of postseason baseball, working innings in relief, with longer layoffs between starts, was not behind the issue.
“Absolutely not,” Scherzer said. “Absolutely not. This is just a little thing that turned into a big thing that turned into a giant thing.”
Martinez said after the game, a 7-1 loss that left the Nationals one win away from a series loss, that Scherzer was as down as he’d ever seen him.
“Max is very -- he likes to talk. He’s very competitive. Today was the first time I think since I’ve known him that he didn’t say much. He was quiet. And I knew that he was in pain.”