Manager Dave Martinez ended all the questions Friday afternoon, announcing that Max Scherzer will start for the Washington Nationals in the National League wild-card game Tuesday. Scherzer, in a radio appearance earlier in the day, had hinted he would get the nod, but the manager dispensed with the suspense officially before Friday’s game.

“I’ll just come out and tell you because Max pretty much spilled the beans today when he went on the radio,” Martinez said before the matchup vs. the Cleveland Indians. “Max will start Tuesday, and I feel fortunate to have Max Scherzer but also [Stephen] Strasburg and [Patrick] Corbin. I talked to both of them, and they will both be out of the ’pen that day. All hands will be on deck.”

Washington entered the weekend in the NL’s top wild-card spot. But home-field advantage is still very much on the line. The Milwaukee Brewers were a game in back of the Nationals in the wild-card standings. The Brewers, 18-2 in their past 20 games, were also one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central race. That means the Nationals, in position to host at the moment, could just as easily go to Milwaukee or St. Louis for the do-or-die game.

They host the Indians for the season’s final series, and Cleveland is still fighting for an American League wild-card spot. The Indians won’t be letting up. Washington, meanwhile, is resting regulars while also trying to keep home field. Scherzer will be replaced by Joe Ross on Sunday. That means Scherzer will have six day of rest before the wild-card game — two more than usual. Kurt Suzuki, who has caught Scherzer for most of this season, was back in the lineup Friday after missing more than three weeks with right elbow inflammation. The Nationals are hoping he’ll be ready to catch Scherzer against the Brewers or Cardinals.

“I based it on the bigger picture,” Martinez said of deciding on Scherzer. “Obviously, he feels good and he’s ready.”

Scherzer, 35, spent most of July and August battling a list of injuries. He dealt with a mid-back strain, bursitis in the scapula below his right shoulder blade and finally a rhomboid strain that led to just two appearances between July 1 and Aug. 22. He has steadily built his workload since he returned in late August and is back to throwing 100-plus pitches at full strength. Martinez went with a future Hall of Famer who when healthy is still one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers. But Strasburg didn’t make it easy.

Strasburg finished his regular season with 10 strikeouts in six innings against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. He leads the NL with 209 innings, six short of his career high, and set a career mark with 251 strikeouts. His ERA settled at 3.32, compared with Scherzer’s 2.92 in six fewer starts, and that all created a valid argument for either right-hander. But now Strasburg will come out of the bullpen if necessary, and Corbin will be available, too.

Martinez recently met with Strasburg and Corbin to brief them on that plan. The manager is emphasizing winning that game over plotting his rotation for the National League Division Series. The thinking there is simple: NLDS plans don’t matter if you lose Tuesday.

“Strasburg is a different guy,” Martinez said of bringing Strasburg out of the bullpen. “And when I talked to him today, he was all-in.”


Indians (93-66)

Francisco Lindor SS

Oscar Mercado CF

Carlos Santana 1B

Yasiel Puig RF

Mike Freeman 2B

Roberto Perez C

Greg Allen LF

Ryan Flaherty 3B

Zach Plesac P

Nationals (90-69)

Trea Turner SS

Adam Eaton RF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Howie Kendrick 2B

Matt Adams 1B

Kurt Suzuki C

Gerardo Parra CF

Austin Voth P

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