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Pitcher Max Scherzer 'probably not' starting for Nationals on opening day

Pitcher Max Scherzer 'probably not' starting for Nationals on opening day

BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum

Opening day is less than three weeks away, but the Washington Nationals have already announced that their ace will not be on the mound. 

Prior to today's spring training game against the Mets, manager Dusty Baker responded when asked if ace Max Scherzer was to start on opening day. "At this point, probably not."

Afterwards, Baker would go on to point out that day two, three and four count as well in the Nationals season. 

Earlier in the off-season, it was announced that Scherzer suffered a stress fracture in the knuckle of his throwing hand ring finger back in August. Playing through the discomfort, the 32-year-old ended the 2016 season winning the 2016 National League Cy Young Award.

This injury would go on to prevent the nine-year-veteran from playing in the World Baseball Classic and have him assigned to a handful of minor league starts before Washington officially starts their's.

Last season, Scherzer went 20-7 as a starter and led the NL with 284 strikeouts and a 0.968 WHIP. The Nationals’ ace was also the first pitcher with 20 wins, 250 strikeouts and a sub-.200 BAA (batting average against) since Bob Gibson in 1968, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Stephen Strasburg, would be the next pitcher expected to make the start on opening day. In his first seven years in the majors, Strasburg has battled injuries, year after year.  He missed the final month of 2016 and finished with a 15-4 season due to a strained flexor mass. 

MORE NATIONALS: Bryce Harper looks dominant in spring training

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Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

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Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez allowed two hits in six scoreless innings, Howie Kendrick hit two solo home runs and the Washington Nationals snapped the Los Angeles Angels' winning streak at six with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

Gonzalez (11-5) struck out four and issued three walks in lowering his home ERA to 1.79, now the best in baseball. The left-hander, who was three outs from a no-hitter July 31 at Miami, allowed his first hit two hits into the fifth against the Angels.

Los Angeles, which had climbed into an AL wild-card spot during its streak, lost for the first time since Aug. 7. Tyler Skaggs (1-3) allowed the two home runs to Kendrick and five other hits while striking out six in five innings.

Kendrick has homered in three of his past four at-bats after hitting a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning Sunday night against San Francisco.

Playing their third game since Bryce Harper went on the 10-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his left knee, the Nationals got an insurance run in the sixth on a wild pitch by Bud Norris and an error on Angels first baseman Albert Pujols. That provided some extra breathing room when Cliff Pennington hit a home run in the eighth, the first run Brandon Kintzler has allowed since being traded to Washington from Minnesota.

With Ryan Madson's availability in question after dealing with a blister Sunday, the Nationals went with Matt Albers in the seventh, Kintzler in the eighth and Sean Doolittle in the ninth. Doolittle picked up his 12th save of the season and his ninth with Washington.

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Howie Kendrick's extra-inning grand slam finally puts Nats-Giants series to bed

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Howie Kendrick's extra-inning grand slam finally puts Nats-Giants series to bed

Howie Kendrick is still new to the Nationals. He doesn't have the same level of frustration with the San Francisco Giants as the rest of his teammates. 

But after watching teammate Bryce Harper suffer a freakish knee injury against the Giants on Saturday, the former Angels and Phillies second baseman decided to join the on-again off-again rivalry on Sunday night, finally putting an end to a series that felt like it took forever to finish.

A Pablo Sandoval solo home run off Max Scherzer tied things up in the seventh inning at Nationals Park, and after two scoreless innings, the two teams appeared once again destined to do this forever. After all, the two teams had played earlier in the day, a game that started less than twelve hours after their Saturday night game had ended, a game which was interrupted by a lengthy rain delay.

Daniel Murphy singled off Alberto Suarez to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning. Ryan Zimmerman followed with a single of his own. Anthony Rendon was then intentionally walked, which brought Kendrick to the plate.

Howie Kendrick did not mess around.

RELATED: HARPER AVOIDS MAJOR INJURY

The home run was the 99th of Kendrick's career and his first-ever grand slam.

And like that, the Nationals 6-2 victory finally put their series with the Giants to rest, after 29 innings in just over 24 hours.