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Max Scherzer Can't Go Tonight, So The Nationals Are Turning To, Um, Joe Ross?

Photo: Michael Reaves (Getty)

What was going to be a marquee Game 5 pitching rematch on Sunday night between the Astros’ Gerrit Cole and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer has taken a bizarre left turn, as Scherzer won’t be healthy enough to get on the mound for Washington. In a shock announcement this afternoon, manager Davey Martinez said his best starter was struggling with spasms in the neck/back area.

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Scherzer will be replaced, improbably, by little-known reliever/starter hybrid Joe Ross—a 26-year-old who wasn’t even on the playoff roster until the World Series, when Martinez decided to add him to the bullpen for his ability to make long appearances and pitch in back-to-backs. Ross has showed up once, pitching two scoreless innings in the Nats’ Game 3 loss, but before then, he hadn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 29.

On the season, Ross’s ERA sits at an uninspiring 5.48, with a worrying WHIP of 1.672. Sooo, yeah, he’s not as good as Max Scherzer. Anibal Sanchez will be available in relief, according to Martinez, but regardless of who might be waiting to replace Ross, this is a pretty dang terrifying situation for a team looking to stop a two-game skid and take a 3-2 lead before heading back to Houston.

Update (6:22 p.m. ET): Some context on how bad Scherzer must have been feeling to miss a World Series start.

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