Nationals starter Max Scherzer is headed to the 10-day injured list, this time with a mid-back strain. Scherzer initially announced his intention to pitch through the pain when he started to feel symptoms several weeks ago, but even after receiving plenty of time off during the All-Star Break, it appears he hasn’t made a full recovery yet.
Prior to his injured list assignment, the seven-time All-Star closed out the first half of the season with a 9-5 record in 19 starts and a 2.30 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, NL-best 12.9 SO/9, and 5.5 fWAR through 129 1/3 innings. He elected to skip the All-Star Game due to his condition and told reporters he felt capable of handling his next scheduled start on Sunday versus the Phillies, though that’s clearly no longer the case.
Although an estimated return date has not been given, the move is retroactive to July 10 with a possible activation date of July 20. Scherzer received promising news after undergoing an MRI on Friday, the results of which came back negative for any serious injury. He threw the ball at 75 feet and is likely to continue working his way back to the mound over the next several weeks.
In a corresponding move, the club recalled catcher Spencer Kieboom from Double-A Harrisburg to take Scherzer’s spot on the roster. Kieboom, 28, has not appeared in a major league game since 2018, and hasn’t particularly excelled in the minors this year, either: through Friday, he’s batting just .213/.257/.291 with eight extra bases, 11 RBI, and a .549 OPS across 136 plate appearances.
The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.
In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.
Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).
Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.
With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.