After Scherzer dealt with ‘rust,’ Nationals hope Strasburg can shake his

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Matt Weyrich
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After Scherzer had ‘rust,’ Nats hope Strasburg can shake his originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

When Max Scherzer took the mound for the Nationals’ COVID-delayed season opener against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, it had been 10 days since his final spring training tune-up. Originally expected to pitch last Thursday, a coronavirus outbreak pushed Scherzer’s first start back an extra five days.

Scherzer attempted to keep his arm fresh during the layoff by working out at home and playing catch at a nearby field. However, the extended rest ended up playing a factor as the right-hander struggled to finish his pitches early on. He gave up four solo home runs in the first three innings, including two to Braves rightfielder Ronald Acuña Jr.

Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo joined 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning and talked about those home runs.

“I could attribute that location-wise to some rust, 10 days of not pitching competitively and just good hitters and Max missed his spots,” Rizzo said. “Even the Hall of Famers, you miss your spots against these hitters and they make you pay and they did. But the good thing about Max is he doesn’t walk people. His innings are usually small-damage innings because he doesn’t put many guys on base…Max always says solo homers aren’t gonna beat him.”

After the third, Scherzer settled in and managed to go six innings without allowing any further damage. The Nationals will play a doubleheader Wednesday with Erick Fedde starting the first game and Stephen Strasburg in the second. Manager Davey Martinez is hoping for some length from Strasburg with Fedde not expected to go as deep in Game 1.

However, Strasburg has faced a similar challenge that Scherzer did. His final spring training start was nine days ago, giving him five extra days of rest in between competitive appearances. Martinez says he expects “Stephen Strasburg to be Stephen Strasburg but hopes the 2019 World Series MVP can shake off the rust quickly.

“I hope not, let’s put it that way,” Martinez said of the possibility Strasburg struggles early. “We’ll see. The first inning for me is the toughest when these guys sit out like that. But you saw with Max, once he got through his first couple innings, he settled down and was able to finish his pitches and he retired the last 12 out of 13.”

For more interviews, tune into the Sports Junkies on NBC Sports Washington, weekdays from 6-10 a.m.