Rizzo: Max Scherzer Nationals' likely Wild Card starter

Chris Lingebach
September 25, 2019 - 2:17 pm

The Nationals face some daunting decisions to make in the coming days now that they've secured a Wild Card spot. Namely, who will start Tuesday's Wild Card game against their likely opponent, Milwaukee?

Max Scherzer – who pitched Tuesday – is lined up to pitch in either the regular-season finale on Sunday, if it were to decide home-field advantage for the Wild Card, or in the Wild Card game two days later.

But Game 1 of the NLDS is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 3. If Scherzer were to pitch Sunday, he'd still be available for Game 1 on three days' rest. If Scherzer starts the Wild Card game, someone else – either Stephen Strasburg or Patrick Corbin – would be your Game 1 starter.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said as much as he could about these concerns during his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance Wednesday with The Sports Junkies, presented by Burke & Herbert Bank.

"Let's assume you wrap up home field," he was asked. "You had said before that Max would be your Wild Card starter. Can we still assume that?"

"Yeah. I think Max is lined up for that Wild Card game and that was done with a purpose," Rizzo said. "I think if everything goes the way we plan it, that that's our strategy. Because, don't forget, in the five-game series that follows this one-game playoff, the Game 1 starter will pitch at least twice in that series, so I think it's important for us.

"But," Jason Bishop said, "if Max pitches Sunday, because you really want the Wild Card and you have to win that, the Wild Card starter would be Strasburg or Corbin. Who would you lean towards there?"

"Correct. That's a question that we'll have to beat around when we meet today or tomorrow," Rizzo said. "We'll have an answer for ya later on. But it's hard to beat the season Stras has had or Patrick, and like I said, we feel very, very confident with each and every starter that we have there.

"Those big three have been magnificent for us and they've carried us. That's one of the pieces of our roster that we feel that we have an advantage on a lot of other teams."

Earlier Rizzo was asked how important it is to host the Wild Card game.

"I think it's important," Rizzo said. "I think it's a credit to our fanbase. I think they deserve it and they've earned it, and I think that it's important for them. And just strategically to win a baseball game, you have a better chance of winning a home game than a road game, and the Brewers play well at home. When that dome closes, it gets really loud in there and I think it's important to try and win out to play a home game, not only baseball-wise but for our fanbase because they've earned it and they deserve it."

Hypothetically, if the Nationals and Brewers carried the same record into Game 162 and Sunday's finale were to determine home-field advantage for the Wild Card game, would Rizzo have Scherzer start Sunday? With five regular-season games remaining, the Nats currently hold a one-game edge over the Brewers. It's also worth noting Rizzo detests hypotheticals.

"We would have to discuss that," he said. "But to go back to my previous comment, it's important to win that game. Fortunately, we have the luxury that we have three number one starters on this club. I feel comfortable going to war with any of those three guys in a Wild Card game, so I think that'll go into our strategy."

"We want to win as many games as we can in the regular season," he said. "We're gonna play hard throughout and get prepared for that game. We'll see where it takes us after that, but I think it's important for our fanbase to see if we can play a home playoff game."