By Harriett Fineberg

Nationals ace Max Scherzer will make his return on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to manager Dave Martinez.

Scherzer first landed on the IL with a back strain on July 14, and was almost immediately placed back on IL after making a start against the Colorado Rockies on July 25. He has not pitched since then.

Initially, it seemed that Scherzer’s absence would only be a minor setback for the Nationals after Stephen Strasburg dominated the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 28 while Patrick Corbin tossed a quality start the next night against the Atlanta Braves.

While Corbin and veteran starter Anibal Sanchez have strung together some good performances, Strasburg has blown up in August. The former No. 1 overall pick has an 8.31 ERA in three starts this month, and opponents have toasted Strasburg for six homers.

Especially considering the struggles of Washington’s bullpen and closer Sean Doolittle landing on IL, the Nationals need their starters to be healthy and productive, so Scherzer’s return could not come at a better time.

“Mad Max” was having one of the finest seasons of his career before the injury, leading the National League in K/9 (12.7) while leading the entire MLB in FIP (2.08). Despite missing close to four weeks and multiple starts, Scherzer also still leads all starters in fWAR.

Scherzer–a three-time Cy Young Award winner–should give the Nationals a much-needed shot of life heading into September.


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