Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer missed the first two games of the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs due to a hamstring injury, but he is slated to start Monday's clash.
Scherzer left his final start of the regular season after just 3.3 shutout innings because of hamstring tightness. The injury forced the five-time MLB All-Star to move back in Washington's playoff rotation.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner, however, is ready to return for game three against the reigning World Series champions, with the series even after two contests.
"It was a process of going through every scenario and weighing the risk versus reward of knowing that I probably wasn't going to be able to pitch game one," Scherzer in a news conference on Sunday.
"And then looking at the schedule here for five games, and knowing that Strasburg could pitch one and five; that by pitching game three, that gives us a couple extra days to build extra strength into my leg, which I needed, and also provides the possibility that if you do pitch game three, that you could be in relief for game five, if need be."
Scherzer, fresh off an NL Cy Young award, is a contender to repeat after finishing the season 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA and 268 strikeouts.
The 33-year-old said he has no trouble taking himself out of a start if he feels an injury developing.
"I've always been very straightforward when you start dealing with injuries," Scherzer added. "You always have to communicate with the trainers and the manager and the pitching coach exactly where you're at.
"That's where you have to be able to say no; over the course of the season, there's been times where I definitely have said hey, I'm not good to go in this particular instance. Because I feel like if you're able to say no, when you do say yes, that holds a lot more weight to it."
Heading to Chicago, Scherzer will face off against Cubs starter Jose Quintana. He knows he has to take care of business against Chicago's explosive line-up.
"Without tipping my hand, I think the obvious is there. We've seen where they [Cubs] have got -- where they produce most of their runs. Their top of the order is as good as anybody in baseball," Scherzer said. "It's going to be just going out there -- it's playoffs. Anybody can beat anybody. Any player can take you deep at any moment in today's ballgame. You just have to go out there and execute pitches.
"There's really no secret to this; that everybody's -- they are going to have a game plan against me and I'm going to have a game plan against them. It just comes down to execution."