Nationals' Max Scherzer says hamstring tweaked, start uncertain

WASHINGTON -- One day after exiting early from his final postseason tuneup with a leg injury, Max Scherzer's status for the beginning of the National League Division Series is uncertain.

Scherzer confirmed on Sunday that he suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth inning of Saturday's game against the Pirates, but he said an MRI shows that he just tweaked it.

"Showed exactly what we thought," the Nationals ace said of his MRI. "Nothing major. More of a tool to help know how we need to treat it. We have a pretty good idea of what we need to be able to do to get back out there. The good news thing about this is, I can walk and run around on this. It's not a major strain or anything, where it's debilitating. So I'm pretty upbeat and positive about going forward here."

When asked about his status for Game 1 of Washington's playoff series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, Scherzer said he didn't know yet.

"That's tough to say right now," the 33-year-old right-hander said. "We're not even 24 hours out. We're still trying to get all the doctors to take a look at this and make sure that we have the absolute correct diagnosis. But we have a really, really good idea of what we've got here."

A two-time Cy Young Award winner, Scherzer is 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA in 31 starts this season. He leads the National League in strikeouts (268) and WHIP (0.90), and he is considered a frontrunner to win his third Cy Young.

If Scherzer -- who started Game 1 of the ALDS in 2013 and 2014 with Detroit and of the NLDS last year with Washington -- isn't able to take the hill in Friday's opener, manager Dusty Baker would likely turn to Stephen Strasburg.

In his only career playoff appearance, Strasburg started Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS for the Nationals. Strasburg is 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA this year, and he has been dominant lately, allowing zero runs in six of eight starts since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 19. Since the All-Star break, the 29-year-old right-hander has a 0.86 ERA that's the second-lowest of any pitcher ever in the second half of a season (minimum of 10 starts), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

If Scherzer winds up pitching Game 2 on Saturday, then because of the travel days built into the playoff schedule, he would still be able to start Game 5 the following Thursday on the normal four day's rest.

One of baseball's most durable hurlers, Scherzer has dealt with several nagging injuries this season. On Aug. 1 against the Miami Marlins, he exited after one inning with neck pain that ultimately landed him on the disabled list for two weeks. On Sept. 2 against the Milwaukee Brewers, in his second start back from the DL, he was hit in the calf by a line drive and was forced to leave the game after five innings.

Also, this past offseason, he was diagnosed with a fractured finger and didn't make his spring training debut until March 22.

"Frustrating as all get-out," said Scherzer of his various injuries. "I've done such a good job of taking care of my body over the course of my career. I've never come out of starts, and this year, I think I've come out of three. That's frustrating for me, because I always take pride on pitching, pitching deep into games and taking the ball every fifth day. Unfortunately, some of these injuries are out of my control right now because I'm doing everything I can to stay out there on the mound and try to be healthy, but unfortunately I got a few ailments."