Scherzer homers, then departs with neck spasm (Nats lose 7-6)

MIAMI - Max Scherzer abruptly pulled himself from tonight's start against the Marlins after throwing an errant warmup pitch before the bottom of the second inning, immediately motioning toward the Nationals dugout that he could not continue.

Scherzer, who had tossed a perfect first inning and then launched the first home run of his career in the top of the second, jogged to the mound to begin the bottom of the second and appeared to be fine.

But after a warmup toss sailed wide of catcher Matt Wieters, he immediately made a throat slash motion and walked off the mound. He continued making the motion as Dusty Baker emerged from the dugout and told his manager: "I can't go."

max-scherzer-stare.jpgAccording to a club spokeswoman, Scherzer had a neck spasm after he "slept on it funny" and came out of the game as a precaution.

It was a stunning turn of events for the Nationals ace, who was cruising early and only minutes earlier had been celebrating in the dugout with teammates following the offensive high point of his career.

With two on and an 0-2 count against him, Scherzer squared around to bunt but then pulled the bat back and proceeded to launch a three-run homer deep to left field, over the visitors' bullpen. He rounded the bases with a look of shock in his face, then got back to the dugout where teammates briefly gave him the silent treatment before mobbing him and offering up high-fives.

MASN cameras showed Scherzer grimacing after the dugout celebration, but it appears his neck already was an issue prior to that point.

The Nationals sent four more batters to the plate before a six-run inning came to end, giving Scherzer ample time to cool down after rounding the bases. And he appeared to be fine as he re-took the mound for the bottom of the second, before suddenly he wasn't.

Left-hander Matt Grace replaced Scherzer on the mound, leaving the Nationals scrambling not only to finish out this game but also to piece together their pitching staff over the rest of the week.

Stephen Strasburg already is on the 10-day disabled list with a nerve impingement in his right elbow, and though he has made progress and been throwing in the interim, the right-hander is not expected to be activated off the DL when he becomes eligible Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are forced to call up a minor leaguer - most likely A.J. Cole - to start Wednesday's series finale against the Marlins as a result of last week's rainout and subsequent doubleheader in Washington.

Update: This game has taken quite a turn for the worse since Scherzer departed. That's probably not unexpected, given the situation the Nationals suddenly found themselves in. But in only four innings of work so far, the Nats bullpen has surrendered seven runs, giving the Marlins a 7-6 lead. Grace went 2 2/3 innings, giving up three runs while throwing 53 pitches. Sammy Solís retired only two of the four batters he faced before Matt Albers entered to face Marcell Ozuna in a big spot in the fifth. Ozuna promptly crushed a three-run homer to left, tying this game up. J.T. Realmuto's single and Derek Dietrich's triple off the center field wall completed the rally and gave Miami the lead in a game the Nats led by six runs after two innings. Long way to go still.

Update II: Yes, the bullpen blew a six-run lead. But the lineup has done nothing to help matters since that six-run splurge in the top of the second. In fact, Howie Kendrick has recorded the Nationals' last three hits. Everybody else is 0-for-19 since. And so they still trail 7-6 in the middle of the eighth, down to their final three outs.

Update III: And that'll do it. Despite leading by six runs after two innings, the Nationals lose 7-6. The bullpen gave up those seven runs in a three-inning span. Oliver Pérez and Joe Blanton combined to throw three scoreless frames to keep it a one-run deficit, but the lineup could not do anything after the six-run second (aside from Kendrick, who went 5-for-5). All of that, of course, is secondary to Scherzer's status. We'll get a chance to ask him directly what he's feeling and what happens now in a few minutes.

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