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Monday, December 10, 2018

Nationals change mind, will not start Max Scherzer against Rockies

Max Scherzer

The Washington Nationals have had a last-second change of heart and decided not to start Max Scherzer in the final game of the season on Sunday.

The Nats had said that Scherzer would start the final game if there were playoff implications for the contest. The Nats are playing the Colorado Rockies, who are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West lead. The Dodgers won on Saturday to clinch a playoff spot, but the division crown is still in jeopardy.

Teams would prefer to win the division so they can avoid the wild-card game, which makes the outcome of Sunday’s games important. If one wins and the other loses, the winner takes the division and begins the playoffs in the NLDS, while the loser plays in the wild-card game. If they both lose or both win, they end up in a tie and play a one-game playoff on Monday.

The game absolutely has playoff implications. Teams are usually encouraged to give their best shot at winning even when eliminated from the playoffs for the integrity of the game. The Nats are now starting Erick Fedde, a pitcher with a 5.24 ERA this season, rather than Scherzer, who is in contention for the NL Cy Young award.

The Dodgers will have Walker Buehler going against San Francisco’s Andrew Suarez (update: the Dodgers decided to start Rich Hill instead).

The Nats’ justification for shutting down Scherzer is that he’s already had a huge workload, and both the Dodgers and Rockies have already clinched playoff spots. Their reasoning is understandable. And even if Colorado now has a more favorable pitching matchup, they still have to win the game, which is always challenging, regardless of who’s pitching.

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