Everything was going well for the Nationals until the top of the fourth inning of Saturday night’s loss to the Pirates, when Washington’s infield saw something wrong with Max Scherzer and gathered around him. Scherzer stopped mid-windup, just after he raised his hands above his head, seemingly because Daniel Murphy called to him.

What Murphy had seen was an awkward landing from Scherzer on the previous pitch, one which sent the righty into a weird post-pitch hop, then on a long trek around the mound. Scherzer tried to clear out his right cleat. Then bent over as if stretching his hamstring. When he tried to throw another pitch, Murphy appeared to stop him, brought the infield in, and called for Dusty Baker and Mike Maddux to walk out.

“Max had a right hamstring cramp. We took him out for precaution,” Baker said. “We gotta make it to the playoffs healthy. So we thought it was better that we make that move, the precautionary move, to get him ready.”

Scherzer did not speak to reporters after the game, the first time in his Nationals career he has not been available postgame. He had left Nationals Park to get what the team called a precautionary MRI on his right hamstring, something that does cast doubt on Baker’s optimistic prognosis, but is not necessarily surprising given Scherzer’s importance to this team and its cautious approach to injuries.