MLB Postseason, Washington Nationals

Max Scherzer out for Game 5, Joe Ross to start for Nationals

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer has been ruled out of Game 5 with neck and back spasms, which is bad news for the slumping Nationals.

The Washington Nationals started the World Series hot, taking a 2-0 lead over the Houston Astros in the best-of-seven series to determine MLB’s champion for 2019. But they’ve melted down in their last two games, and now they find themselves tied at two games apiece headed into Sunday’s Game 5 at home. And on Sunday afternoon, the Nationals also got some seriously bad news.

Expected starting pitcher Max Scherzer will miss Game 5 with neck and back spasms, per manager Dave Martinez. Joe Ross will start in his stead.

While Martinez hasn’t ruled Scherzer out for Games 6 or 7, saying that he could serve as a reliever in the former and possible starter in the latter, the immediate news for the Nationals is not good. With bats going cold over the past two games, the pitching needed to be their salvation. Scherzer, in particular, was expected to be a keystone to those efforts and now it will have to wait until Tuesday, if he’s healthy enough to go then.

With momentum having shifted strongly in the Houston Astros’ favor, this latest setback for the Nationals could ultimately prove their World Series undoing. In addition to having scored only two runs in the last two games, they’ve also given up a total of 12 runs to Houston. Scherzer would have upgraded the stalled-out pitching, potentially bailing out the offense’s dip in production.

Now, the Nationals will have to do without in their final home game of the series and hang their hopes on Ross. Ross has pitched only two innings this postseason and 4.2 on his career. But his inexperienced arm will have to carry the early load for Washington. It’s not what they intended, but they have no choice; Scherzer’s injury makes it next man up for the Nats.

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