Phillies-Nationals preview

WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals are certainly thankful they have Max Scherzer, who will start on Saturday night against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Starter Stephen Strasburg was pulled after 42 pitches on Wednesday and has a flexor mass strain.

Another right-handed starter, Joe Ross, who made his big league debut in June, 2015, has been on the disabled list since July.

If the Nationals make the playoffs Scherzer will certainly pitch the first game and the Nationals will most likely need to ride him a long way in October, especially if Strasburg does not return.

“You don't have to be big. You have to be flexible,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said of Scherzer. “Some guys are just blessed with that.”

Baker pointed to Nolan Ryan, who pitched into his 40s and had a good work ethic — just like Scherzer.

“Nolan Ryan worked his butt off,” Ryan said.

The same can be said of Scherzer, who was signed by the Nationals prior to the 2015 season.

“His legs are good and his mind is strong,” said Baker, in his first year with the Nationals.

Baker has asked Scherzer to let rookie pitcher Lucas Giolito follow him around and pick his brain before games.

Some of the Phillies have had little success against Scherzer, who threw two no-hitters last season.

Ryan Howard is hitting .100 in 20 at-bats against Scherzer although Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said it is unlikely Howard starts Saturday.

Maikel Franco (wrist), who did not start for the third day in a row Friday, is hitting .067 in 15 trips to the plate against Scherzer while Freddy Galvis is hitting .182 in 25 at-bats.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said after Friday's game that he hopes Franco can play Saturday.

Cesar Hernandez is hitting .238 in 21 at-bats against Scherzer, a native of St. Louis who won a Cy Young Award with the Detroit Tigers.

The Phillies starter on Saturday will be Jerad Eickoff, who was one of three pitchers the Texas Rangers traded to Philadelphia in July, 2015 for veteran lefty Cole Hamels.

Eickoff is 10-13, 3.86 this year in 28 starts and has 138 strikeouts while giving up 166 hits in 167 2/3 innings. He has won five of his last six starts.

He is 0-1, 4.50 against the Nationals this year and 1-1, 3.46 in two starts in his career against Washington.

Eickoff has held Daniel Murphy in check with one hit in nine at-bats. Bryce Harper has just one hit in six trips against him.

He won his 10th game on Monday as he beat the Miami Marlins 6-2.

“Anytime you get double-digit wins, it's a huge testament to what we as pitchers try to do,” Eickhoff told reporters after that game.