Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer left in the second inning of Tuesday night's 7-6 loss at Miami with what the team said were neck spasms, after belting his first career home run in the first inning.
Scherzer said he has had a crick in his neck for a couple of days but that it helped his swing.
"I couldn't pull my head out, I had to stay locked in," Scherzer said. "That actually gave me a better swing. That's the reason why I hit a home run."
Scherzer pulled himself out of the game before throwing a pitch in the second. After throwing one warm-up pitch prior to the start of the bottom of the second, Scherzer gestured he was done and walked off the mound.
Scherzer said he slept on his neck wrong a couple of days ago and left for precautionary reasons. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner worked a 1-2-3 first inning.
"They've been working on it," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "Then the spasm was back again."
Baker said the Nationals would have a better idea of Scherzer's status on Wednesday.
Scherzer said it was an issue he was familiar with.
"I've had this pop up before," Scherzer said. "Use different pillows sometimes, it can just put a crick in your neck. And that's what happened. You do anything you can before a game to try to loosen it up. Went out there and warmed up OK, at least to start up the game. Kind of hurt myself turning left. First inning I could tell I wasn't right. Hard for me to pick up the target.
"When I went out in the second I could tell it had tightened up even more," Scherzer added. "When I felt that, I knew it was time to pull the chute."
After Scherzer stunned his teammates with his home run, he threw a pitch to the backstop warming up for the second inning and walked off the mound pointing to his neck and shaking his head. Baker came out of the dugout to meet Scherzer, who said, "I can't go."
That was all the opening the Marlins needed, even down 6-0.
"Losing him early gives you hope that you can get back in a little bit," Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "Not that you can't do it with him, but the chances aren't very good."
Baker said he was initially worried the injury was something other than his neck because of the way Scherzer promptly walked off the mound.
"He didn't wait for us to get there," Baker said. "Our trainer came over and said they had been working on him and it had subsided. Then you pop your neck swinging and throwing. The way he threw that ball wild you knew something was wrong. Then he kind of walked out and we're just glad it wasn't his arm because his arm has been throwing great."
Left-hander Matt Grace replaced Scherzer.
The top half of the second was more triumphant for Scherzer as he hit the first home run of his career, a three-run shot that was part of a six-run frame for the Nats.
Scherzer's home run swing began as a bunt attempt before he pulled his hands back down and put a ball deep into the left-field seats.
The last starting pitcher to homer and log only one inning was Randy Lerch in a 23-22 Phillies win over the Cubs in Chicago on May 17, 1979, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Lerch hit a homer in the top of the first (part of a seven-run inning for the Phillies) but allowed five runs and recorded only one out in the bottom of the first before being lifted.
Scherzer came into Tuesday's game with a 12-5 record, 2.23 ERA and a league-best 201 strikeouts for the NL East leaders. If he winds up on the disabled list, he will join fellow starter Stephen Strasburg who is battling a nerve impingement in his right arm.
The Nationals are saddled with five other significant injuries to right-handed starter Joe Ross (Tommy John surgery), shortstop Trea Turner (broken wrist), outfielder Adam Eaton (torn ACL), outfielder Jayson Werth (broken foot) and outfielder Michael Taylor (oblique strain).
Information from ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press was used in this report.