What had previously been clear but not announced was made official by Dusty Baker this afternoon: Gio Gonzalez will start Game 2 of the National League Division Series for the Nats, with Max Scherzer starting Game 3.
That decision was made by the Nationals earlier in the week, but was held back for public consumption until they were confident Scherzer would be ready to pitch Monday's Game 3 at Wrigley Field.
They were finally ready to make the announcement today, with Scherzer completing a bullpen session at Nationals Park in his toughest test to date of his tweaked right hamstring. That lines up Scherzer to start in three days, at which point he and everyone else will learn for certain whether he's 100 percent healthy or diminished in any way.
Scherzer, according to a source familiar with the Nationals' decision, tried to convince club officials he could start Game 2 on Saturday, which would have the added benefit of putting him in position to start a potential do-or-die Game 5 on normal rest. The Nationals, though, decided to take a more cautious route and instead start Gonzalez at home and save Scherzer for Monday in what will be his one and only start of the series against the Cubs.
"Today he threw some," Baker said. "Yesterday, it was determined that we would be better if we waited til Game 3."
Scherzer, who hurt himself throwing a pitch in the fourth inning of Saturday night's start against the Pirates, said earlier this week his injury doesn't affect him when he runs, lifts weights or even plays catch. It's only a factor when he drives off the mound to throw a pitch at full velocity, which is why he won't truly know he's in the clear until he is pitching again in a game.
"The injury's tied to my pitching mechanics and how I deliver the ball," Scherzer told 106.7 The Fan earlier today in his regular appearance with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. "So we're in the tricky situation of trying to find a way to strengthen it so that, when I go out there and pitch, it holds for a full start and everything so that this doesn't reoccur."
Gonzalez, meanwhile, said he was informed Wednesday that he will start Game 2 at home instead of Game 3 on the road.
"I was preparing myself to pitch in Chicago," the left-hander said. "The situation came out, and obviously we all know the situation. I was getting ready to pitch in Chicago and get ready to face the (Cubs) lineup. ... As far as that, I've got to prepare myself either way, whether I'm at home or on the road. You've still got to face a good lineup."
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