Cubs in command with Max Scherzer pushed back to next week

WASHINGTON — Whether Nationals ace Max Scherzer pitches against the Cubs could depend on whether this National League Division Series goes beyond a sweep and even more on whether his strained hamstring is well enough for him to take the mound at all.

For now, the Nationals officially penciled in the two-time Cy Young winner for a Game 3 start, which means the Cubs can’t face him twice in the series regardless.

“You’ve got one of the best pitchers of our generation not going two games,” said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who drove in one of the Cubs’ two runs in the sixth inning and drove in another in the eighth in Game 1 Friday night. “He’s one of their horses. It’s definitely a little blow for them.”

Said Scherzer during a radio interview: “I am going to pitch in the series. I promise you that.”

Scherzer throws during a workout at Nationals Park this week.

Lackey in, Rondon out

As expected, veteran postseason starter John Lackey was kept as insurance in the bullpen when the Cubs announced their playoff roster.

Manager Joe Maddon said a more significant benefit to having Lackey as a trusted long man is that left-hander Mike Montgomery can be used in any mix-and-match situation during the game for as little as an inning or even a batter.

That gives the Cubs three left-handers in their pen to help neutralize dangerous Nats lefties Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.

Former Cubs closer Hector Rondon paid the price for keeping Lackey and struggling lefty Justin Wilson on an 11-man playoff staff. He’s the lone pitcher who was on the roster all season to be left out of the NLDS.

‘No doubt’ Arrieta’s ready

Maddon said pushing Jake Arrieta back to Game 4 to allow the longest possible recovery time for his achy right hamstring has its benefits. It has resulted in an invigorated Arrieta, who should be as close to full strength as he has been since the Sept. 4 injury.

“Reports from the doctors, reports from Jake and the training staff say he’s ready for that game, no doubt about that,” Maddon said. “Something would have to happen between now and then because as of right now, he feels very good.

“Slow play in that regard in getting him back out might be beneficial to us. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Cubs’ NLDS roster

Starting pitchers (4): Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Arrieta.

Relief pitchers (7): Wade Davis, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, Lackey, Montgomery, Brian Duensing, Wilson.

Non-pitchers (14): C Willson Contreras, C Alex Avila, 1B Rizzo, 2B Javy Baez, 3B Kris Bryant, SS Addison Russell, IF Tommy La Stella, IF/OF Ben Zobrist, IF/OF Ian Happ, OF Kyle Schwarber, OF Jason Heyward, OF Jon Jay, OF Albert Almora Jr., OF Leonys Martin.

This and that

Former Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones, the Nationals’ assistant hitting coach, was suspended, with pay, “pending an internal investigation pursuant to a legal matter,” the team announced just before game time.

• Stephen Strasburg’s strikeout of Schwarber in the fifth inning — his eighth of the game — set an Expos/Nationals franchise record for a playoff game. He finished with 10 in seven innings.

Contributing: Daryl Van Schouwen

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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