Chicago Cubs: Scherzer’s injury could play huge role in NLDS outcome

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 30: Starting pitcher Max Scherzer
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 30: Starting pitcher Max Scherzer /

The MLB regular season is officially over. The Chicago Cubs are set to take on the Washington Nationals this week, but pitcher Max Scherzer is questionable to start Game 1.

Last Saturday, Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer made an early exit in the fourth inning during his start against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The veteran pitcher left with a right hamstring injury. An MRI revealed Scherzer merely tweaked the hamstring and that the injury is minor. But he could still end up sitting out Game 1 against the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS.

When it comes to hamstring problems for pitchers, you can never really be certain of how it will affect productiveness. Time and time again we’ve seen reportedly minor hamstring injuries flair up again for pitchers. Scherzer insists he would have stayed in last Saturday if it was a playoff game, but his status for Game 1 of the NLDS is still up in the air.

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Simply put, Max Scherzer is one of the best starting pitchers in the league and has been for quite some time. To have to sit him for the opener this Thursday could be a huge factor in the outcome of the series.

Scherzer has been wildly productive for the Nationals this season. ESPN currently has him placed third in their Cy Young predictor for the National League.

Scherzer finished the 2017 regular season 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA, racking up a whopping 268 strikeouts in the process. The 33-year-old veteran somehow appears to be getting better with age. He went 82-35 with a 3.52 ERA in five years with the Detroit Tigers. In three years with Washington, he’s gone 50-25 with a 2.76 ERA. He’s a machine that just won’t quit.

If Scherzer has to miss Game 1, right-hander Stephen Strasburg would be the likely starter. Strasburg also had an impressive season on the mound. The former first-overall draft pick went 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA. Those numbers are strikingly similar to Scherzer’s. But Scherzer just has that “it” factor that makes him so difficult to hit.

Early momentum

If Scherzer does miss Game 1, the Cubs could have an opportunity to gain early momentum in the series and run with it. This series will take place in Washington, so things were already going to be tough enough for Chicago.

It’s not yet clear who will be starting for the Cubs. The team is expected to announce who it will be sometime on Wednesday. Jake Arrieta has been dealing with a hamstring issue of his own, but if he’s feeling good, my best guess would be he takes the mound for the Cubs in the opener.

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It’s always more satisfying to beat a team when they’re at their best and with full strength. But it’s still an opportunity to gain an early advantage. And Scherzer is fully expected to start at some point in the series. It’s just not clear if that will be Game 1.