DENVER — After the Nationals' 12-2 win over the Rockies Saturday night, Dave Martinez announced that right-hander Erick Fedde will start the season finale against the Rockies on Sunday instead of Max Scherzer.

Scherzer had been scheduled to pitch the season finale if playoff fates were on the line. But even though the Rockies and Dodgers will begin the day tied for first in the National League West, the Nationals decided against starting Scherzer, a decision Martinez indicated was out of the right-hander’s hands.

" I understand integrity of the game, but both teams are in it," Martinez said. “I got to take care of my player.”

Scherzer had been preparing to pitch the finale for the last four days. Initially, he thought Tuesday’s start — the one in which he recorded his 300th strikeout and carried a bottle of champagne around afterward -- would be his last. He was surprised the Nationals were considering starting him in the finale, but he agreed. He, Martinez, and general manager Mike Rizzo decided that if the game could eliminate a team from playoff contention, he would pitch it. If the game had playoff implications, he would probably pitch it. But when the Dodgers won Saturday and clinched a playoff spot, meaning Sunday’s outcome would not determine who made the playoffs, but merely a division title, Rizzo decided against starting his $210 million dollar righty with a Hall of Fame resume.

“We talked earlier today, and [Rizzo] just expressed that this is an opportunity for Fedde," Scherzer said. "He wanted to get Fedde a chance to pitch. He needs innings. He needs to work. And he needs to get experience. This is going to be a heck of an atmosphere for him tomorrow, a chance to go out there and get a taste of what it’s like to pitch in postseason-type baseball. So for our organization, that’s the best thing for us.”

Privately, of course, the Nationals worried about Scherzer’s health. Though the right-hander says he is completely healthy, he also planned for Tuesday to be his last start, mentally and physically. Restarting those engines for one last start, particularly in a stadium that will be as energetic as this one, risks Scherzer reaching for energy he does not have or testing his body after assuming he would not need to do so for months.

“At the end of the day it’s not really my call. I was mentally ready to pitch, but I completely understand where Rizzo was coming from with this decision,” Scherzer said. “I said from the beginning that this was his call, because of the nature of the beast that we’re playing for nothing. So at the end of the day, he felt this was the best thing to do for the Washington Nationals, and that’s all there really is to say.”

Scherzer will finish this season with exactly 300 strikeouts, by far his career high and a team record. He posted a 2.53 ERA in 33 starts, threw 220 2/3 innings and maintained the lowest batting average against of any National League starter. The 34-year-old called this “my best season ever,” and though Jacob deGrom will likely win the Cy Young Award this year, Scherzer once again delivered a Cy Young-worthy performance. In four years of the biggest contract in team history, he has delivered four of those seasons. The Nationals want to make sure he will be healthy enough to provide a fifth.

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