Scherzer forced from World Series Game 3 by back tightness and Jon Gray emerges from bullpen for win

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Texas Rangers starting pitcher Max Scherzer leaves the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

PHOENIX – Max Scherzer shook off catcher Jonah Heim twice and threw a 1-2 slider that struck out Evan Longoria in the third inning of World Series Game 3.

“Something was there,” the three-time Cy Young Award winner said.

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Back in the World Series, the 39-year-old Texas right-hander felt a muscle spasm on the right side of his back. His outing would soon be over, and perhaps his postseason, too.

Scherzer was forced from his start after three innings with Texas ahead by three runs. Jon Gray emerged from the bullpen and followed with three scoreless innings for the win, helping lift the Rangers over Arizona 3-1 on Monday night for a 2-1 World Series lead.

“I’m in full spasm. It’s locked up pretty good," Scherzer said. "I’ve had spasms before. The way this kind of goes, tomorrow will be sore, then it’s the second day — the second day will let you know where this is at.”

After striking out Longoria, Scherzer retired Geraldo Perdomo on a flyout. The spasm felt even tighter as he walked Corbin Carroll on five pitches. Scherzer retired Ketel Marte and went to the clubhouse for treatment.

“That's when it locked up,” Scherzer said.

Scherzer tried to throw two warmups in the fourth but grimaced. Rangers manager Bruce Bochy and head athletic trainer Matt Lucero headed to the mound.

“I was finally going to catch some rhythm and finally get deep into a ballgame,” Scherzer said. “And here we are with another little ailment. It's as frustrating as heck, but that's the hand I'm dealt, so I got to deal with it and find a way around it.”

Scherzer allowed two hits in three innings with two walks and one strikeout, throwing 21 of 36 pitches for strikes. He was hit on his right elbow by a 92.6 mph comebacker off Alek Thomas’ bat in the second inning. The ball ricocheted to third baseman Josh Jung, who threw to first for the out.

Scherzer's elbow was fine. The back left him in considerable pain.

"I got to see how bad this is and if the drugs can work," he said.

Scherzer would be in line to start a potential Game 7 on Saturday on four days of rest. Asked whether he was taking a muscle relaxant or something stronger, Scherzer responded: “All of the above.”

Acquired from the New York Mets on July 30, Scherzer strained a muscle in his right shoulder on Sept. 12 and returned to make two starts in the AL Championship Series against Houston, going 0-1 with a 9.45 ERA. Scherzer allowed five runs over four innings and took the loss in Game 3, and then gave up two runs in 2 2/3 innings in a no-decision in Game 7.

He was pitching Monday with a cut on his right thumb covered with cotton and Super Glue, what he termed Sunday as “a little arts and crafts in the training room.”

Scherzer is 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA in four World Series starts, getting a no-decision for Detroit against San Francisco in 2012’s Game 4, winning the 2019 opener for Washington at Houston and getting a no-decision in the Game 7 win after getting scratched from a Game 5 start because of an irritated nerve near his neck.

“I was able to snap out of that in 72 hours, so there's history here that these spasms can go away and go away quick,” he said.

Gray, a 31-year-old right-hander, was a starter during the regular season. He heard the bullpen phone ring at the end of the second inning, after the comebacker.

“I kind of peeked over a little bit and tried to find out what the deal is,” Gray said.

Bullpen coach Brett Hayes told Gray to stay loose in case Scherzer needed to come out.

Gray said it wasn't long after when Hayes got word of Bochy's intention and told Gray: “Go ahead. He's going to go out there and get Max and you'll have it.”

Gray said he got off 10 warmups. He retired his first eight batters, allowed Marte's single and retired Gabriel Moreno on a flyout.

Gray was pitching a postseason game at Chase Field for the first time since his postseason debut, when he allowed four runs over 1 1/3 innings as Colorado lost the 2017 NL wild-card game 11-8.

“This is like that chance for revenge," he said. “Once you get that first out, you can harness the energy after that, and then it becomes fun. And especially on the road, you're kind of like the villain, and it's kind of fun to play the villain."



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