Washington Nationals

Max Scherzer coming back to help Nationals’ playoff push

The Washington Nationals are atop the Wild Card standings in the National League, and now they’re getting Max Scherzer back.

Since the All-Star break, the Washington Nationals are 20-14 and they currently sit in the first Wild Card spot in the National League. Over that time they’ve gotten one start from ace Max Scherzer, as he went right back on the Injured List with a back injury after an outing on July 25.

Caution has been the operative word with Scherzer, but he made good and steady enough progress that a return to action his past weekend against the Milwaukee Brewers was a possibility. That did not happen, as he instead threw a 60-plus pitch simulated game on Saturday. That was an effort to ramp him up further, after he threw about half as many pitches in a simulated game last Tuesday.

According to ESPN, Scherzer is scheduled for a bullpen session on Monday. Unless he has a setback, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is slated to return to the Nationals’ rotation Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Prior to missing essentially the last month-plus with mid to upper back issues, Scherzer was having a typically excellent season. Over 20 starts to this point (134.1 innings), he has a 2.41 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP, a 12.7 K/9 and a 1.7 BB/9 (189 strikeouts, 25 walks).

Heading into Monday’s action, Washington is 1.5 games ahead of the Chicago Cubs for the top Wild Card spot in the NL. After that three teams are two games back of the second Wild Card, with two more teams within five games of that second spot. So it promises to be a tight race, and any downturn could end someone’s chances rather quickly.

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The Nationals have stayed afloat, or even a bit better than that, without Scherzer for the better part of the last five weeks. Now he’s coming back, as an ace/stopper to make a big difference in their playoff push.

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