Max Scherzer is out of the World Series, but Rangers can withstand the loss

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Major League Baseball

Oct. 31, 2023 9:36 p.m. ET

PHOENIX — Mad Max cannot be pleased.

Less than an hour before Game 4 of the World Series on Tuesday, the Rangers announced the removal of Max Scherzer and Adolis García from their World Series roster. Both players experienced injuries Monday — Scherzer was pulled before the fourth inning with back spasms, Garcia after his eighth inning at-bat with an oblique issue — and neither’s condition improved enough by Tuesday afternoon.

Scherzer and García, both of whom cannot return to the roster, were replaced by left-handed hurler Brock Burke and utility infielder Ezequiel Duran, respectively.

There was some optimism that Scherzer, who had dealt with back spasms before in his career, could improve sufficiently over the next 24 hours and perhaps make another start. Scherzer himself told reporters after Texas’ Game 3 win over Arizona that he can’t typically tell the severity of the spasms right away. But Rangers general manager Chris Young assured reporters that the three-time Cy Young winner’s condition was definitive.

“We saw how Max came in, how he responded to treatment,” Young said. “And [giving Scherzer more time] was certainly a consideration in terms of Max’s history. But given where we were at the end of the day, after all the treatment he received, it was clear.”

His removal marks the end to yet another bizarre season for Scherzer, who was dealt from the imploding Mets to the ascendent Rangers at the trade deadline. But the heterochromatic hurler only made eight starts for Texas (3.20 ERA) before a right shoulder issue sidelined him for the final three weeks of the season.

He returned after a month on the shelf to start Games 3 and 7 of the American League Championship Series against Houston and was predictably rusty. Scherzer struggled in both outings, allowing seven total runs across 6 2/3 combined innings. But Texas’ lineup negated Scherzer’s second stinker, delivering an unstoppable 11-run performance in the deciding game to send the Rangers to the Fall Classic. 

Despite his championship series scuffles, the Rangers saw enough progress to tap the future Hall of Famer for Game 3 of the World Series. Before his start, Scherzer ensured the media that his shoulder felt perfectly fine, even though a new cut on his right thumb had been giving him trouble. That didn’t seem to bother Scherzer on Monday. Even though an Arizona baserunning blunder bailed him out of what would have been a tricky second-inning jam, Scherzer looked significantly better than in his previous two October starts. He would have been a near lock to start Game 7.

None of that matters now.

“Max is actually unbelievable in terms of understanding in these situations,” Young said. “He’s honest, he’s open, he’s authentic, and gives us as much information as he can possibly provide and wants us to make the best decision. He doesn’t fight once the decision is made. He understands that we’re trying to do what’s best for the team.”

BREAKING NEWS: Adolis García, Max Scherzer off Rangers’ WS roster

But while the removal of a generational arm slated to start Game 7 of the World Series is headline news, the actual impact of Scherzer’s removal is somewhat mitigated by Texas’ enviable starting pitching depth amid a 2-1 series lead.

Jon Gray, who the Rangers signed for $56 million as a starter before the 2022 season, shined in three scoreless innings in relief of Scherzer on Monday. He becomes the most likely Game 7 option. And Gray is not some nobody; he’s a former No. 3 overall pick who started the most regular-season games for the Rangers this season before a September forearm issue bumped him to the bullpen.

Texas could win the World Series by winning the next two games, games that Scherzer wouldn’t have pitched in anyway, rendering his injury and corresponding removal entirely moot. Even if the Series were to reach a deciding Game 7, which was slated for Scherzer, the drop-off between the 39-year-old and some combination of Gray, Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning and Cody Bradford isn’t enormous.

Scherzer showed in the last three games that he isn’t what he once was, that Father Time has waged a winning war against his aching body, even when he is “healthy” enough to take the hill.

Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He played college baseball, poorly at first, then very well, very briefly. Jake lives in New York City where he coaches Little League and rides his bike, sometimes at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.

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