In his second start of the season and his second outing against the Washington Nationals' NL East rivals from Atlanta, Max Scherzer struggled early but finished strong with a six-inning effort against the Braves in what ended up a 6-4 win for the home team in Nationals Park.
It was the Nationals' eleventh straight win over the Braves in D.C. after they went 10-0 against them in the nation's capital in 2015.
Scherzer gave up three hits, two walks and two runs, both earned, in seven innings of work in the Nationals' season opener in Turner Field last week.
Braves' first baseman Freddie Freeman hit a solo shot to deep center in the top of the first on a 2-2 fastball and third baseman Adonis Garcia sent a second home run to left field on an 0-2 slider up in the zone in the fourth.
"Max only made one mistake," Dusty Baker said after the season opener. "To Garcia. The pitch he made to Freddie -- sometimes the hitters gets you -- they're not always mistakes, but that was a mistake he made to Garcia, 0-2 slider, a flat slider.
"So that was a mistake, but he threw outstanding."
"I did a lot of things good," Scherzer told reporters. "Was sharp with the offspeed and was able to execute a lot of things, get a lot of pop-ups... made one mistake to Garcia and he hit an 0-2 slider out, that's just what happens at this level, but overall I was able to keep working ahead in the count and just keeping forcing their hand. Was able to get some key outs in some big situations."
Scherzer gave up two runs early tonight when A.J. Pierzynski drove in both Freddie Freeman (who'd walked) and Adonis Garcia (who'd singled) with a two-out, two-run double to the right-center gap. 2-0 Atlanta after a half-inning.
A double steal by Bryce Harper and Michael Taylor put two runners in scoring position for Ryan Zimmerman with one out in the Nationals' half of the first.
Zimmerman hit a sac fly to center to bring Taylor in and Daniel Murphy followed with a two-run blast to right-center that put the Nationals ahead, 3-2, and left Murphy 7 for 14 with two home runs early this season.
Nick Markakis hit a two-out, two-run double to right in the second as the Braves retook the lead, 4-3. It was Markakis's fifth double in the last three games after a three-double game against St. Louis on Sunday.
Zimmerman, Murphy and Wilson Ramos singled in the Nationals' third and Zimmerman scored on a sac fly to left by Danny Espinosa, tying it up at 4-4.
Zimmerman doubled to start the Nationals' fifth, smoking a slider from Bud Norris, and took third one out later on a foul pop to the right side by Jayson Werth before scoring on a two-out single to left by Wilson Ramos that took one hop and bounced off umpire Bob Davidson, 5-4 Nats.
Max Scherzer's Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 100 P, 65 S, 9/1 GO/FO.
Matt Belisle gave up a one-out single in the seventh, but Felipe Rivero came on to get a 6-4-3 DP out of Markakis on the first pitch the left-hander threw.
Ramos was 4 for 4 after he dumped a two-out RBI single to right in the eighth, driving Zimmerman in from second for a 6-4 lead after Zim walked with one down and moved into scoring position on a two-out walk by Jayson Werth.
Rivero came back out for the first out of the eighth, and Blake Treinen finished off the inning.
Jonathan Papelbon came out in the ninth looking for save no.4 in the first five games and retired the Braves in order to earn it. 6-4 final.
Nationals now 4-1
• The Nationals were 10-0 against the Braves in Nationals Park last year, and they've won 14 of the last 15 games with Atlanta in Washington, D.C.
Their undefeated home record vs the Braves last season was their first clean sweep of a divisional opponent in Nats Park.
Overall last year, the Nationals were 14-5 against Atlanta, leaving them 103-101 against the Braves since moving to the nation's capital in 2005.
• In today's Nationals-themed Fun With Arbitrary End Points segment, the Nationals are 23-9 against the Braves since June 21, 2014.
• Daniel Murphy had reached base safely in 11 of his first 18 plate appearances with the Nationals. He homered for the second time against the Braves in his first trip to the plate tonight, sending a two-out blast to right field and over the out-of-town scoreboard.
• Heading into tonight's matchup, Max Scherzer is (1-3) with a 3.43 ERA in eight games and six starts against the Braves.
• The Braves lost right-hander Daniel Winkler to a fractured elbow yesterday. Do yourself a favor and don't watch the video.
• Atlanta, as a team, has committed six errors in their first five games.
• Before tonight, Braves' starter Bud Norris was undefeated in Nationals Park, in five games, three of them starts, with a 4.43 ERA in D.C.
• Bryce Harper entered today's game one home run shy of 100 for his career...
• Harper walked for the sixth time this season in his first trip to the plate (still no Ks to that point) and he and Michael Taylor pulled a double steal with Ryan Zimmerman up.
Taylor singled and stole second before Harper stepped in with one down, then scored on Zimmerman's sac fly.
• Dusty Baker mixed and matched, bringing out Matt Belisle, Felipe Rivero and Blake Treinen after Max Scherzer was done, then going to Jonathan Papelbon for save no.4 in the first five games.
Nationals now 4-1