This story has been updated.

ATLANTA — Every day since his uncharacteristically brief start in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, Max Scherzer tried to play catch. Every day, he expected the arm fatigue he was feeling to dissipate. It never did.

Until Friday afternoon, a day before he was scheduled to start Game 6 vs. the Atlanta Braves, Scherzer couldn’t throw past 60 feet. Starting pitchers don’t technically need to throw farther than 60 feet 6 inches, but struggling to go farther — so much so that he couldn’t even throw a between-start bullpen session like normal — suggested he probably wouldn’t be able to provide much from the mound, either.

Late Friday night, he and the Dodgers decided they couldn’t afford to let him try. They pulled their Cy Young candidate and future Hall of Famer from duty in an elimination game in favor of Walker Buehler on short rest. From Scherzer’s perspective, there was no other choice.

“My arm’s been locked up the past couple days,” Scherzer said Saturday before Game 6. He admitted he “overcooked himself” with his four appearances in 12 days earlier this postseason, but thought his arm would loosen up like it has previously.

“I’m progressing. I’m not dealing with a sprain, I’m not dealing with a strain, I’m just dealing with muscle fatigue. It just takes time,” Scherzer said. “This is a workload capacity issue and I’m just trying to work through it.”

Scherzer has been battling non-arm nicks and bruises for much of this season and has been feeling the effects of throwing nearly three times as many innings in 2021 as he did in 2020 since late in the regular season.

The 37-year-old lasted just 4⅓ innings against Atlanta in Game 2 on Sunday. He admitted that “my arm was dead,” something he felt in the bullpen beforehand and thought would loosen up as the game went on.

Instead, it tightened up, and Scherzer — who has proven he would rather holler an expletive at his manager on national television than come out of a game before he is ready — alerted Manager Dave Roberts that he probably couldn’t last past the fourth.

Earlier this postseason, Scherzer and the Dodgers were the opposite of cautious with his workload. He started the wild-card game against the St. Louis Cardinals, then Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, then appeared in relief two days later to close out Game 5.

After that appearance, Scherzer admitted he wasn’t exactly sure how his arm would bounce back, though he figured that with regular rest before his next outing he would be fine. He wasn’t, though he said afterward he had experience with a dead arm and expected a regular rest cycle to restore it.

Scherzer said Saturday he didn’t regret pitching in relief, and that he doesn’t think that one outing is solely responsible for what he is feeling now. Roberts admitted the cost of using Scherzer in that role is higher than he could have imagined.

“In talking to Max before the Division Series Game 5 and wanting the baseball and having done it before, you have to trust the player, certainly a player with his track record, and this is a decision that we all kind of came together and we felt good about,” Roberts said.

“So could I foresee where we’re at right now? No. But we still have to make the decision that gets us to this point.”

This point, of course, is two wins away from the World Series — but a loss away from going home. And this point comes with its own risk, of putting Buehler back on the mound with just three days rest for only the second time in his career.

“We came in yesterday, and Walker and I were both playing catch kind of at the same time. He felt like he was in a much better spot than I was and [pitching coach Mark Prior] also agreed with that,” Scherzer said. “Everybody thought, we all decided together, that Walk was the best option to pitch Game 6 and I’ll give you whatever I’ve got in Game 7.”

Scherzer said he believes he will be able to pitch in a potential Game 7. What he doesn’t know is how much, or when, or for how long. He wasn’t even sure he would start the game, rather than appear briefly in relief.

“What he will be able to give us and how long, I don’t know the answer. I don’t think anybody does,” Roberts agreed. “But as far as him taking the baseball tomorrow, if we put ourselves in that position, I think I feel very confident.”

Though the Los Angeles Times first reported Scherzer would not be starting late Friday evening, the Dodgers did not make the switch official until Saturday morning, when they announced that Buehler would start Game 6 on short rest.

Buehler threw 76 pitches in the shortest outing of his playoff career in Game 3 on Tuesday. The right-hander pitched well on short rest in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, though he lasted just 4 1/3 innings.

That the Dodgers would find themselves without an obvious starter for back-to-back games in October is both a product of injuries — Dustin May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this season and Clayton Kershaw suffered a flexor strain in late September — and an indictment of their roster construction.

Despite many red flags, the Dodgers committed $102 million to former Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, who is under investigation in relation to multiple accusations of sexual assault and has been away from the team since those allegations surfaced this summer.

But here they are, on the brink of elimination, unable to use the man they traded for to pitch in this very position.

“He’s pitched through a lot of things over the last seven, eight years that I’ve seen, and he’s not pitched through some things,” Scherzer’s longtime Nationals teammate Trea Turner said Saturday. “So he knows when his body’s available to go or not. So I think if he could, he would definitely be out there.”

The fatigue is happening at a complicated time not only for the Dodgers, but for Scherzer personally: He will be a free agent after this season, meaning any major health concerns that emerge this October could have an effect on his next contract.

But the fact is that Scherzer may finally be hitting a wall he hoped would never emerge. For the first time in his career, he seems to be running out of gas, something that didn’t happen when he helped the Nationals win the World Series in 2019, nor at any point in his career to date.

Since Scherzer signed his current seven-year deal with the Nationals before the 2015 season, he has avoided major injury by managing little ones — taking an extra day here and there to preserve himself later, pushing back a World Series start in 2019 because of a neck issue, only to start Game 7 a few days later.

He is an expert at making sure little problems do not become bigger ones, at knowing when pushing through could have irreversible consequences and when it is safe. Clearly, Scherzer and the Dodgers were worried about the consequences of having him pitch while fatigued Saturday. The question is what consequences the Dodgers will face in his absence.