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Nationals to start Anibal Sanchez in NLDS Game 3 against Dodgers, not Max Scherzer

Nationals starter Anibal Sanchez delivers a pitch against the Braves during a game earlier this season.
Nationals starter Anibal Sanchez delivers a pitch against the Braves during a game earlier this season.
(Todd Kirkland / Getty Images)

The Washington Nationals announced Sunday that Anibal Sanchez — not ace Max Scherzer — will start Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers and their starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Scherzer pitched the eighth inning of the Nationals’ Game 2 victory on Friday night, striking out the side on 14 pitches. Manager Dave Martinez said after the game he’d evaluate Scherzer’s recovery before making a decision on a Game 3 starter. Scherzer presumably will start Game 4 on Monday. The best-of-five series is tied 1-1.

Sanchez, 35, is a 14-year veteran who was 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA during the regular season, his first with the Nationals. He faced the Dodgers twice, holding them to one run over seven innings in July while giving up three runs over 4 1/3 innings in May. In the July 26 start, Sanchez retired 20 in a row after giving up a run in the first inning.

Last season he pitched for the Atlanta Braves and the Dodgers defeated him in the NLDS. He gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings, but the two players who homered off him — Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal — are no longer with the Dodgers.

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Among current Dodgers, Joc Pederson has had the most success against Sanchez, with five hits including two home runs and two doubles in 14 at-bats. Max Muncy is the only other Dodger to have homered against Sanchez, although he is only two for 11. Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, David Freese and Russell Martin — who will start at catcher in Game 3 — have had moderate success against him.

Sanchez posted a 2.83 ERA in 25 games with the Braves in 2018, an abrupt turnaround from three ineffective seasons with the Detroit Tigers — he had the worst ERA (5.67) among the 78 MLB pitchers who logged 400 or more innings — that appeared to indicate his career was winding down. The Minnesota Twins released him in spring training and the Braves were rewarded when they gave him a shot. Sanchez has a career mark of 108-108 with a 3.98 ERA.

Those aren’t exactly Scherzer numbers — the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 170-89 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 seasons — but the Dodgers will face him soon enough. If a Game 5 is necessary, the Nationals could choose between Stephen Strasburg on four days rest or Patrick Corbin on five days rest to face the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler. Left-hander Rich Hill is scheduled to start Game 4 for the Dodgers.

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