HOUSTON -- Ailing ace Max Scherzer is set to start Game 7 of the World Series for the Washington Nationals after recently being scratched because of neck spasms so severe that he told reporters Sunday that "I can't even lift my arm right now."
Scherzer threw off flat ground in the outfield at Minute Maid Park before Game 6 on Tuesday against the Houston Astros, then flashed a thumbs-up sign to reporters, saying, "Good to go." Manager Dave Martinez said after Washington's 7-2 Game 6 victory that the right-hander will indeed start Wednesday's Game 7. He will oppose Zack Greinke in the first Game 7 in World Series history featuring former Cy Young winners as opposing starters.
Scherzer did briefly warm up in the bullpen during Game 6 but never came on in relief of Stephen Strasburg.
"We got him up knowing that if the game is tied or we were up a run, we might have to use him," Martinez said. "He wanted to go down there and just throw and get loose. We scored some more runs and I immediately shut him down."
Scherzer received a cortisone injection Sunday which he said doctors told him would take 24 to 48 hours to take effect. Scherzer's return to pitch will represent a remarkable recovery from what looked like a serious issue. Scherzer, 35, could barely turn his head to look at reporters when answering questions during a news conference Sunday.
"I feel good. Cortisone shot worked," Scherzer said. "That relieved the pressure on the nerve, and Keith Pyne, our chiropractor, he does amazing work. He was able to go in there and make adjustments. We did two treatments of it, really freed up the neck, C5/C6 [vertebrae] area, along with the trap (trapezius) spasm. Really felt like it's subsided. Even when I was warming up tonight, I felt really good. So I'm good to go."
The Nationals sent Strasburg to the mound in Game 6 in hopes of keeping their season alive and setting up a potentially dramatic return for Scherzer. Such a development might seem surprising to some, but not to his teammates.
"If there is any way humanly possible that Max can take the ball, we know he will," outfielder Adam Eaton said moments before news of Scherzer's status update spread.
Martinez said catcher Kurt Suzuki (hip flexor) was also improving. He was available to come off the bench if needed in Game 6, and it's possible he could, as usual, catch Scherzer in Game 7.
"Barring nothing happening, come tomorrow, I'm going to sit down and talk to him," Martinez said. "If nothing happens, he'll catch Max in Game 7."
The Nationals led the series 2-0 after winning Games 1 and 2 in Houston. However, the Astros recovered to beat the Nats in three consecutive games in Washington by a combined score of 19-3.
In the last of those games, after Scherzer was scratched, the Astros jumped on Ross for four runs over five innings. Scherzer was the Game 1 winner, giving up two runs over five innings.
Martinez said that Scherzer won't be limited to a predetermined pitch count in Game 7. Asked how long he thinks he can go, Scherzer offered only, "Should be good."