- - Monday, August 19, 2019

PITTSBURGH — Nationals ace Max Scherzer is on track to start Thursday, while closer Sean Doolittle hopes to return to full strength by late August.

Scherzer threw a bullpen session at PNC Park before Monday’s game against the Pirates, two days after throwing a simulated game at Nationals Park.

“See you Thursday,” Scherzer told reporters.

“He felt good again today. So he’s scheduled to pitch Thursday,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “It was his regular routine. He felt good. Everything went according to plan. The plan is: he’s ready for Thursday.”

Martinez said Scherzer will be limited Thursday to about 75 pitches against the Pirates.

“He was happy. Very talkative, which is good. He’s been working hard to get back. Hopefully we’re beyond this and we move forward and he does well and we finish the season with him and head to good places,” Martinez said.

Scherzer (9-5, 2.41) is a three-time Cy Young Award winner who has made 20 starts this season.

Meanwhile, Doolittle addressed the media for the first since he went on the injured list Sunday with right knee tendinitis.

“I have been trying to grind it out and there is a fine line between wanting to pitch through something and help the team,” he said. “But you don’t want to do it at the expense of costing the team and jeopardizing your long-term health. We agreed to take some time and get myself right and come back like a September call-up.”

Doolittle admitted, though, that “it stinks” to be sidelined.

“It is frustrating because everything we have going on right now,” Doolittle added. “We have won five of six and are 11 games up (over .500). Max is about to come back. The timing of it, it is kind of a bummer. We have just enough time, like I said, to get things right and be ready for the stretch run.”

Doolittle (6-4, 4.33) gave up three homers in the ninth inning Saturday to the Brewers.

“At this point it is just not right. I am not me. I have lost some life on the fastball,” he said.

The fastball he threw that Ryan Braun crushed in Saturday night’s 15-14 loss was clocked at 90 mph.

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