The conversation took place late Friday night, after the Nationals had hung on for a dramatic 4-2 win over the Dodgers to even up their best-of-five National League Division Series. Max Scherzer, who made a surprise 14-pitch relief appearance to help make that win possible, and Davey Martinez met in the Dodger Stadium clubhouse to decide when the ace would next start: Game 3 tonight or Game 4 on Monday.
The decision wasn’t complicated. The already well-rested Aníbal Sánchez would start Game 3, with Scherzer getting more time to recover before starting Game 4.
“We talked after the game,” Scherzer said today. “Throwing Sanchez Game 3 and let me get an extra day would probably be the best thing for me and for the team. So that was Davey’s decision, and it’s Davey’s call.”
Martinez may have had the final say, but Scherzer concurred. Though he was willing to come back and start two days after his relief appearance, he acknowledged the extra day will make a difference, particularly in his chances of going deeper in the game.
“I would say probably the number of pitches you can go in a specific day,” he said. “I know if I can go tomorrow, I can probably give more. I don’t even know what the number is right now. That’s kind of out the door. It’s just how you feel and communicate with the coaches on what you think can you do, and stay within yourself and communicate where you’re at.”
The decision was made easier by the availability of Sanchez, who quietly put together an impressive regular season of his own. After a slow start that included an 0-6 record and 5.27 ERA, the 35-year-old made a brief trip to the injured list with a strained hamstring and returned to go 11-2 with a 3.42 ERA over his last 21 outings.
“Everybody talks about the big three that we have,” Martinez said. “You could mention Aníbal as being one of the big four, because he was really good this year for us. Really good, especially down the stretch. I’m excited, he’s excited. Hopefully he goes out there and pitches like he’s been pitching and he gives us a strong outing.”
Sánchez is starting tonight, but who’s coming out of the bullpen? Martinez was asked if he asked Patrick Corbin to hold off throwing his between-starts bullpen session.
“Yeah, I’ve asked a lot of guys to hold off on their bullpens,” Martinez said with a laugh. “You know, the beautiful thing about our guys is that they’re all in, they really are. It’s never a twist-your-arm conversation. These guys, they want to play, and they’re ready to do anything to win.”
OK, but Scherzer’s not going to pitch in relief tonight, right?
“No, because we have to play a game tomorrow, no matter what,” the ace said.
Scherzer then paused and reconsidered his answer.
“Unless Davey got crazy and came to me and said: ‘Let’s do it,’ ” he continued. “So then I would say yes. But I just don’t envision that happening.”