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Sánchez, not Scherzer, starts for Nats vs. Dodgers in Game 3

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Anibal Sanchez

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws to a Philadelphia Phillies batter during the second inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Max Scherzer was held back by the Washington Nationals for Game 4 of their NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Aníbal Sánchez replacing him as the starter for Game 3.

The Nationals announced the switch Sunday morning, less than nine hours before Game 3 was scheduled to begin.

Scherzer originally was the pitcher Washington said would be on the mound in the tied best-of-five series. But that plan was thrown into question after manager Dave Martinez brought Scherzer on in relief in Game 2; the three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out all three batters he faced in Washington’s 4-2 victory at Los Angeles on Friday night.

“We talked after the game. Throwing Sanchez Game 3 and letting me get an extra day would probably be the best thing for me and for the team,” Scherzer said Sunday. “So that was Davey’s decision, and it’s Davey’s call.”

The Dodgers planned to send baseball’s ERA leader, Hyun-Jin Ryu, to the mound for Game 3, with Rich Hill facing Scherzer on Monday.

Sánchez went 11-8 with a 3.85 ERA this season, his first with the Nationals. He was their No. 4 starter, after Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.

“Everybody talks about the Big Three that we have,” Martinez said. “You could mention Aníbal as being one of the Big Four, because he was really good this year for us. Really good, especially down the stretch.”

Sanchez is 2-5 with a 3.12 ERA in eight previous postseason appearances for Detroit and Atlanta. He started one game of last year’s NLDS between the Braves and Dodgers, allowing three runs in 4 2/3 innings and taking the loss for Atlanta.

He faced the Dodgers in the regular season on July 26 at Los Angeles, giving up one run and three hits in seven innings of a 4-2 loss for the Nationals.

The righty retired 20 batters in a row in one stretch, but the bullpen blew the game, as happened often during the regular season; the good news for Washington is neither of the relievers who allowed runs, Tony Sipp and Kyle Barraclough, is with the club nowadays.

Strasburg started Game 2 against the Dodgers and is lined up to go in Game 5 if there is one. Corbin started Game 1 of the NLDS and is expected to be available in relief the rest of the series.

Asked whether any of his starters might be used out of the bullpen Sunday, Martinez replied: “That remains to be seen.”

As for whether Corbin was asked to delay throwing a bullpen session so he could be available in Game 3, Martinez said with a chuckle: “Yeah, I’ve asked a lot of guys to hold off on their bullpens.”

“The beautiful thing about our guys is that they’re all in. They really are,” Martinez said. “It’s never a twist-your-arm conversation.”

Scherzer said later that there was no way he would pitch as a reliever in Game 3. But then he paused and added: “Unless Davey got crazy and came to me and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ So then I would say, ‘Yes.’ But I just don’t envision that happening.”

Notes: Nationals CF Victor Robles has a mild strain in his right hamstring and was out of the starting lineup for Game 3, replaced by Michael A. Taylor. But Martinez said Robles was available as a pinch hitter. Robles was hurt running to first base in Game 2. … Brian Dozier got the start at second base for Washington. He is the third player to start a game at that position in the series for the Nationals, after Asdrúbal Cabrera in Game 1 and Howie Kendrick in Game 2.

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