MLB

Scherzer goes for 19 wins as Nationals host Diamondbacks

WASHINGTON -- Washington right-hander Max Scherzer will start Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a chance to win 20 games this season.

He is 18-7 in his second season with the Nationals but Scherzer will also be tuning up for a postseason start, something he did not get to do in his first season in Washington.

Scherzer, if he stayed on schedule, would pitch Sunday in the regular-season finale at home against the Miami Marlins. And five days later he would be ready to pitch Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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"You are getting your workload in," Scherzer said Monday of his approach to getting ready for the playoffs. "The consistency, pitching at your best" is vital.

Scherzer won 8-3 in Arizona on Aug. 3 in his only outing against the Diamondbacks this year. The St. Louis native made his big league debut in 2008 with Arizona. In his last outing in Miami, Scherzer went 6 2/3 innings and gave up three runs.

The Nationals have clinched the National League East title while the last-place Diamondbacks are trying to play spoiler. They did so Monday with a 14-4 win as Washington tries to nail down the second-best record in the league.

Arizona, which was swept by playoff hopeful Baltimore over the weekend, will send rookie Matt Koch to the mound on Tuesday in Washington.

"Let see what he can do against a really good team," said Chip Hale, the Arizona manager.

The Diamondbacks could have pitched Patrick Corbin on Tuesday. But Hale said the organization has been pleased with Corbin, who has made 24 starts.

"We feel excited about what Patrick has done," Hale said.

Koch has made five appearances out of the bullpen as a rookie this year for Arizona and is 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA. Hale said he hopes Koch can go at least 75 pitches.

Hale said the Diamondbacks' brain trust wanted a chance to see Koch make a start before the year ended. Hale said Monday that Koch could also start the regular-season finale on Sunday.

That most likely means the season is over for veteran right-hander Zack Greinke, who has had shoulder woes.

"It would be hard for me to believe he would start Sunday," Hale said of Greinke. "Why push it at this point."

Washington clinched the East title on Saturday.

"They are a really good team," Hale said of the Nationals. "You get to test your players. It is a team that will play in October."

The Nationals, who lost Bryce Harper to a thumb injury Sunday, got more bad news Monday when catcher Wilson Ramos left the game in the top of the sixth inning with a right knee injury. Baker said an MRI will be done on Tuesday.

"He does not look too good tonight," Baker said. "You could tell he was in pain. There is a little concern when you lose a guy of that caliber. I feel badly."

Baker said X-rays came back negative on Harper. The Nationals are also without MVP candidate Daniel Murphy and right-handed starter Stephen Strasburg. Baker feels Murphy will be ready for the playoffs but that is far from certain for Strasburg. "Nobody is going to feel sorry for you," Baker said. "Next man up. It is another obstacle."