Dodgers say waiting to start Max Scherzer in Game 2 of NLCS a ‘no-brainer’
At the end of a workout day Friday, not even 24 hours removed from his National League Division Series-clinching save against the San Francisco Giants, Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer offered to start Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.
But both Scherzer and the team also knew he could benefit from an extra day of rest.
So, after deciding on a bullpen game in Saturday night’s series opener at Truist Park, the Dodgers will turn the ball over to Scherzer for Sunday’s Game 2 instead, confident doing so will allow the 37-year-old right-hander to pitch without restraint.
Austin Riley’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifts the Atlanta Braves to a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS.
The Braves set their pitching plans for early in the series as well, announcing that Ian Anderson will start Game 2 and Charlie Morton will go in Game 3.
To Scherzer and the Dodgers, waiting for a Game 2 start made the most sense.
Not only was Scherzer’s arm tired after his 13-pitch outing in the ninth inning Thursday — “you close that game, I would expect my arm to be tired,” he said — but he likely would have been limited to somewhere between 60 and 90 pitches had he started Game 1.
By going in Game 2, he said he will be back on a “full slate.”
Scherzer did something similar with the Washington Nationals in the 2019 NLDS against the Dodgers, pitching an inning of relief in Game 2 of that series before making a start in Game 4 three days later. In the latter outing, he threw 109 pitches and gave up only one run in seven innings.
“I have zero experience of trying to pitch on one day of rest, like relieving and come back [to start],” he said. “I do have experience of pitching on two days … and that was a very taxing start in and of itself.”
Pushing Scherzer to Game 2 and Buehler to Game 3 — Buehler will get the benefit of a couple extra days off after making his most recent start Tuesday on short rest — should also still allow both pitchers to start again in Games 6 and 7, if necessary.
“We’re just trying to navigate this as best as possible,” Scherzer said. “I would love to be out there for Game 1, but it makes more sense for me to start Game 2.”
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Max Muncy has worn a black brace around his left elbow since the Milwaukee Brewers’ Jace Peterson ran through his arm, bending it backward, in the Dodgers’ regular-season finale two weeks ago Sunday. He wears it all day. He wears it to sleep.
“It’s not light, that’s for sure,” Muncy said before the Dodgers played Game 1 of the NLCS against the Braves on Saturday. “It’s not very comfortable. I’d love to have it off, but it’s not and that’s where we’re at.”
Muncy is seemingly not close to playing in a baseball game. The first baseman said the Dodgers’ training staff has been encouraged by the elbow’s range of motion, which has bred some optimism that he could play in the World Series if the Dodgers advance that far.
But even if he does play, he would be limited because of the substantial ligament damage in the elbow. He said the elbow is “still really painful.”
“Yeah, I’ve had better days,” he said.
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Muncy danced around questions relating to his rehabilitation process. He offered a “no comment” twice when asked whether he has swung a bat. He declined to say whether he is doing any baseball activity.
“I hold a baseball. It feels good in my hand,” Muncy joked. “It’s one of those things where we’re trying to work through and figure out what we can do and it’s trying not to put much out there, but, yeah, we’re trying to work through some things.”
Muncy said he’s still not sure whether he could worsen the injury if he somehow does play. That’s a question he probably won’t have to answer. Game 1 of the World Series is scheduled for Oct. 26 — 10 days from Saturday. If the Dodgers believe Muncy would be available later in the series, they’d have to use one of their 26 spots on someone who wouldn’t be able to contribute right away.
Without him, the Dodgers have had Cody Bellinger, Matt Beaty and Albert Pujols start playoff games at first base. Pujols started Saturday night against Braves left-hander Max Fried after going two for two in his only previous postseason start in Game 3 against the Giants. Bellinger, meanwhile, had two hits, including the go-ahead RBI single in Game 5.
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A healthy Muncy would provide an upgrade in the middle of the lineup. He and the Dodgers are holding out the sliver of hope, at least publicly, but a fully healthy Muncy won’t make another appearance in 2021 — if he makes one at all.
“Not playing has been one of the worst things I’ve ever had to experience,” Muncy said. “But supporting these guys has been awesome. It’s been fun.”
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