Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer answered without hesitation when asked whether an extra day of rest would help him more in terms of quality or quantity.
“Everything,” he said.
That explains why Nationals manager Dave Martinez saved Scherzer for Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Monday night against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers in the nation’s capital. But now the pressure is on Scherzer and his teammates as they face a win-or-go-home scenario against Los Angeles, which holds a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five series.
The Dodgers relied on a seven-run sixth inning to sprint to a 10-4 win in a pivotal Game 3 on Sunday.
“I told the boys we stayed in the fight all year, so let’s stay in the fight (Monday),” Martinez told reporters after the game Sunday.
Los Angeles will turn to veteran left-hander Rich Hill as it looks to make its fourth straight appearance in the NL Championship Series. The 39-year-old Hill went 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 13 starts during an injury-shortened regular season.
In three September appearances, Hill allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings for a 1.59 ERA. He is 2-2 with a 4.08 ERA in seven career games (five starts) against Washington.
Hill is not worried about whether the Dodgers will limit his innings.
“Pitch count, whatever it is, I can’t control that,” Hill told reporters. “Whatever I can give the team, I’m going to give the team. And the decision that’s made is going to be made obviously beyond my control. So that’s first and foremost. And my expectations are to go out there and have the ball come out of my hand the way I want it to every time. So that’s something that hasn’t changed in a long time for me, and that’s been pretty consistent, and it will be (Monday).”
A hot lineup could help Hill’s cause. Max Muncy has homered in each of the past two games for the Dodgers, while Justin Turner clubbed a three-run homer in Game 3 and Russell Martin drove in four runs on a double and a homer Sunday.
Nationals rookie Juan Soto will try to stay focused after belting a two-run homer on Sunday night. Anthony Rendon is hitting .300 (3-for-10) with a double and an RBI in the series.
Scherzer has enjoyed increased velocity during the postseason despite being 35 years old. He has 88 postseason innings under his belt and has gone 4-5 with a 3.78 ERA and 109 strikeouts during that span.
“Yeah, I’ve noticed it,” Scherzer said of his increased velocity. “I’ve had some fun with the other guys in the clubhouse. Still the old guy can still throw hard. But for me, it’s just a mentality of just going out there with everything on the line.
“The atmospheres I’ve pitched in, here with the wild-card game (last week) and then there on the road in Dodger Stadium (in relief in Game 2), I mean, it’s been intense. So you’re going to get the best out of me. And there’s no regular-season environment that I can replicate that.”