The Nationals have lost the plot.
Instead of a shot at taking a 3-2 lead in their final home game of the season, with a possible future Hall of Famer in Max Scherzer on the mound, this morning they were forced to call an audible.
Max Scherzer will NOT start Game 5. Spasms in back and neck. Joe Ross will start.— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) October 27, 2019
How could this be? Scherzer has had well-publicized back issues all year, causing the typically Ripkenian veteran to make fewer than 30 starts (27) for the first time since his rookie season with the Diamondbacks in 2008. The back spasms, it seems, have delivered a heretofore unknown level of agony.
Scherzer says that he woke up "completely locked up," impossible to do anything in a way unlike pain he's pitched through in the past. He had to ask his wife to help him get dressed because he couldn't do it himself.— Emma Baccellieri (@emmabaccellieri) October 27, 2019
To be something that could keep Scherzer out for potentially the defining moment of his career it must be something insurmountable. If only someone with a penchant for inelegant journalism and erratic quoting could sum this up for us...
Mike Rizzo on Scherzer: He is in ungodly pain— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 27, 2019
To oppose the Astros we instead will see
Country Joe Ross, the less scintillating but similarly mercurial brother of Tyson Ross. The only initially-named return in what was ultimately revealed as the Trea Turner trade is one of the most “Break Glass In Case of Emergency” emergency starters the World Series has ever seen, with a >5.00 ERA in each of the past three seasons and 4.91 FIP cumulatively over that same stretch.
Perfect excuse to mention that General Crowder won 26 games in 1932 and 24 in 1933. pic.twitter.com/x5aaVzc5po— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) October 27, 2019
Ross will fit in to some degree if you just follow the radar gun, as his fastballs (a near-even split of sinkers and four-seams) average 94 mph. His sinker has even generated pretty solid results, with a faculty for getting grounders if he locates well that can help him elude jams. His slider, as well as a brand-new curveball, wouldn’t be mistaken for his counterpart Gerrit Cole’s, but they’re solid pitches that have generated whiffs over 30% of the time. IF Ross has his command and IF the Nationals have a savvy gameplan patched together for him, the Nats could get more from him than his season-long numbers would suggest.
Of course, the likelier outcome is simple: Ross is not half the pitcher Scherzer is, and he’s certainly not half the pitcher Gerrit Cole has been in 2019. Washington got to a sloppy Cole in Game One, but it’s hard to imagine him looking much worse, nor things going much better. The Nats get Stephen Strasburg for Game Six regardless, but in Houston, with Justin Verlander on the mound, in the hopes that two to three days of rest can get Scherzer right, things look bleak in the nation’s capitol without a miracle tonight.
A look at the Astros’ Game 5 lineup. -JM pic.twitter.com/NCpSGLR9qd— AT&T SportsNet SW (@ATTSportsNetSW) October 27, 2019
FiveThirtyEight: Astros 63% chance of winning
FanGraphs: Astros 61.7% chance of winning
Me: Astros 98% chance of winning but screw them go Nats
Game Time: 5:07 PM PT