HOUSTON (AP) — Max Scherzer, this is your moment. And baseball fans, this is what you hoped for.
Because a World Series mostly devoid of drama suddenly involves the two most compelling words in sports: Game 7.
Mad Max, in so much pain over the weekend he could hardly move, starting for the Washington Nationals.
“He’s ready to go,” manager Dave Martinez said.
Zack Greinke, acquired by Houston in late July for exactly these situations, pitching for the Astros.
“A little excited about it at the moment, but we’ll see,” Greinke said.
The wild-card Nationals, trying to rewrite franchise history with their first championship. The Astros, aiming to build a legacy by taking their second crown in three years.
“Maybe not how we drew it up in terms of how we got there, but it doesn’t take away the opportunity we have to win the World Series,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said.
A pair of teams that began spring training under sunny skies in February, working out side-by-side in the complex they share in Florida, now meeting in late October under the retractable roof at Minute Maid Park for the biggest prize of all.
And this: What to expect from Scherzer on Wednesday night?
Unable to pitch Game 5 on Sunday night because of nerve irritation near his neck that required a cortisone shot, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is set to start this all-or-nothing showdown.
Scherzer tossed in the outfield before Game 6 — a charged, 7-2 win by the Nationals — and even loosened up in the bullpen in the seventh inning Tuesday night.
“I’m good,” he said.
But whether the Game 1 winner, known for his incredible intensity, will be able to cut loose at full force, we’ll soon find out.
“Max will pitch until his neck decides he can’t pitch anymore,” Martinez said before the game. “I can’t see myself telling Max, ‘You’re only going to go 75 pitches.’ He’s going to want to go out there and go as long as he can.”
If Scherzer returns and wins, it might well go down in sports lore, along with Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases and the night Willis Reed limped back on the court at Madison Square Garden.
“They’d probably make a movie about it. I bet, if he could, he could come back from the dead,” teammate Adam Eaton said.
In the first World Series where the road team has taken the six first games, the Nationals meet an Astros team that led the majors with 107 victories.
So much for the home-field advantage.
“Doesn’t look like there is one right now, but I hope there’s one tomorrow. We’re waiting until the last game to have it on our side,” Hinch said.
Everyone available, probably.
Astros ace Gerrit Cole, certainly. And maybe Justin Verlander after going five innings Tuesday night.
“It’s a Game 7, all hands on deck. If AJ asks, I’m sure I’ll figure out a way,” Verlander said.
Houston played in the previous Game 7 of the World Series, when George Springer and crew hammered Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium in 2017.
Road teams took the two prior Game 7s, too — Joe Maddon’s Cubs at Cleveland in 2016 and Madison Bumgarner and the Giants at Kansas City in 2014.
Healthy, Scherzer went 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA this postseason in four starts and one relief appearance.
Greinke gave up one run over 4 2/3 innings in his first-ever World Series start when the Astros took Game 3. Acquired from Arizona at the trade deadline, the six-time All-Star is 0-2 with a 5.30 ERA in four starts this postseason.
Did he ever imagine pitching a Game 7?
“Probably, but can’t remember doing that at the moment,” he said.
The Nationals, meanwhile, tried everything to make the ailing Scherzer comfortable, especially on the flight from Washington back to Houston.
“He couldn’t do anything for 24 hours,” Martinez said. “We put him in a neck brace. We sat him up in first class, so he had a lot of room.”
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.