A similar issue limited Scherzer to one inning in a start against the Marlins on Aug. 1. He said the injury is the same but on the opposite side of his neck.
"Honestly, I feel exactly like I did after that Miami start, when I came out of there," Scherzer said. "... I hate to sound like a broken record, but same cause. Slept on it wrong. Came in, threw, ran, did my workout and by game time, I was feeling everything tighten up yesterday. Tried to work on it, tried to get it ready for today. Locked up fully and wasn't able to go."
Since the injury-shortened start, Scherzer pitched consecutive seven-inning outings, allowing two runs in both. He's 12-5 with a 2.25 ERA in 24 starts. This is Scherzer's first trip to the disabled list.
Scherzer said the injury is a matter of strengthening his neck, adding he didn't do his neck exercises after his previous start. He'll take anti-inflammatories for 48 hours before returning to throwing. Scherzer, whose DL stint is retroactive to Aug. 15, said he expects to come off the DL next Friday to start against the Mets.
"This is my own fault," Scherzer said. "Look, I was feeling good after this last start, and I know it's an excuse, and I hate excuses, but I forgot to do the neck exercises during this go-around. And I know it sounds stupid, but it happened, and for whatever reason, this came back. Just need to stay on top of my program."
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he knew something was wrong when Scherzer was already at the park when he arrived Friday, as the National League Cy Young Award frontrunner often arrives later when he starts.
Scherzer tried to hit before the game and felt his neck tighten up more. When he attempted to throw, he knew he wouldn't be able to pitch.
"You certainly don't want this thing to linger," Baker said. "We're trying to find out why. Because one side of the neck to the other, I think that's probably a positive sign. If it was just one or the other, then you'd be really apprehensive."
Baker also confirmed right-hander Stephen Strasburg will come off the disabled list to start Saturday's game, which continued a trend for Washington: getting one player back as another goes down. Outfielder Michael Taylor made his return when Brian Goodwin was injured. Reliever Shawn Kelley came off the disabled list Thursday as Ryan Madson went on it.
"That's been the story all year," Baker said. "We lose one, gain one, and then hopefully, before it's over, we'll gain 'em all."
Madson to play catch
Madson, on the disabled list with a sprained right index finger, will throw Saturday for the first time since Monday.
He initially experienced what he called "a cramp feeling" in the finger while playing catch last Sunday before the Nationals' doubleheader against the Giants. While warming up in the nightcap, the pain was sharper.
"[I thought], 'Oh, it'll just go away. It'll be fine,'" Madson said. "There wasn't a pop. Didn't feel anything.
"I couldn't even put any pressure as far as the ball, so the ball was just sailing up. It was painful."
Madson played catch again Monday, but the finger still hurt. Although "forward effort" is what caused Madson pain, doctors have told him there's nothing torn in the finger.
"On Monday, playing at 20-percent effort, I felt it right away," Madson said, "so it'll show its ugly face right away if it's still [hurt]."
Before the injury, Madson had not allowed a run in nine innings since joining the Nationals in a trade from Oakland.
Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.