Max Scherzer had yet to to complete a scoreless outing heading into Tuesday’s contest, but he dazzled in the Washington Nationals’ first ever game at SunTrust Park as the Nats beat the Atlanta Braves 3-1 behind seven strong innings from their ace.
Scherzer gave up just two hits in the game, tossing a season-high 116 pitches.
Both Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper had two hits and Matt Wieters reached base twice as the Nats managed to scratch seven hits in the game.
The Nationals’ bullpen made things interesting in the ninth.
Closer Blake Treinen loaded the bases with one out, then walked in a run before being pulled by manager Dusty Baker.
Shawn Kelley came on and retired the final two batters to give the Nats the win in the opener of the three-game series.
Here’s how it happened:
• The Braves gifted Washington an early baserunner when shortstop Dansby Swanson couldn’t complete the throw across the diamond. Unable to put enough behind the ball, first baseman Freddie Freeman was unable to pick the short throw and Anthony Rendon made it to first with one out in the top of the first.
Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz was able to get out of the frame in routine fashion, however, needing only six pitches to retire Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.
• Max Scherzer gave up his first hit of the afternoon to Freeman — a two-out single up the middle — in the bottom half of the inning. He wouldn’t make it any farther, however, as Scherzer would force Nick Markakis to ground out and end the inning.
• The Nationals were able to get two runners aboard in the second inning, but weak contact squandered their chances of grabbing an early lead. Zimmerman hit a leadoff single to center, but was quickly erased on double play off the bat of Jayson Werth.
Matt Wieters would then draw his sixth walk of the year, but Wilmer Difo struck out and Scherzer headed back out to the mound.
• Scherzer had everything working for him, retiring nine of the first 11 hitters he faced. He struck out Swanson each of the first two times he faced him — throwing just seven pitches between the two at-bats.
• Harper broke his bat on a ball hit into shallow left field to start the top of the fourth. Between the distance left fielder Jace Peterson had to go to get the ball and the soft jog he was taking to get there, Harper saw an opportunity and legged out a double.
When Zimmerman drew a one-out walk two batters later, the Nats looked like they had a rally coming. Those hopes quickly dispersed when Harper was caught too far off the bag at second base. Catcher Kurt Suzuki threw the ball to third and Adonis Garcia whipped the ball to second in time to get Harper. Werth was then called out looking on a questionable outside strike to end the inning.
• Scherzer ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fourth, walking Freeman and giving up a soft single to center off the bat of Markakis to put runners on first and second with no outs. He then got to work, forcing Brandon Phillips to ground into a fielder’s choice at second that Difo nearly converted into a double play for the first out. Garcia then followed suit, hitting a 6-4-3 double play to get Scherzer out of the jam with no damage.
• Wieters kicked off the top of the fifth with a double, then moved to third on a wild pitch by Foltynewicz. The Nats scored their first run of the game when Difo knocked in his first RBI of the year with a single to right field.
Scherzer laid down a bunt that allowed Difo to get to second with one out and the top of the order coming up. Adam Eaton would promptly hit a single to center, scoring Difo from second and putting Washington up 2-0.
A baserunning mistake would kill the Nats’ rally once again. Eaton got a bad jump on a stolen base attempt and was thrown out trying to get back to first.
Anthony Rendon and Harper would then draw back-to-back two-out walks, but Murphy flew out to center and the Nats’ lead remained at two.
• After the tough fourth inning, Scherzer wouldn’t allow another hit the rest of the evening. He lasted seven innings and was as dominant as ever, lowering his season ERA to 1.37.
• Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 116 P, 76 S, 7/5 GO/F
• Foltynewicz would finish strong for Atlanta as well, going seven innings for the first time since August 27 of last season. He retired the final seven batters he faced and left the game with the Braves still very much in it.
• Mike Foltynewicz’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 Ks, 106 P, 63 S, 12/7 GO/FO
• Braves manager Brian Snitker called on left-hander Eric O’Flaherty to handle the eighth. He struggled to handle Harper, however, as Harper hit a one-out ball down the left field line but was held at second after the ball was picked up by an overeager fan.
Harper moved to third on a groundout by Murphy, who finished the day with a rare 0-4 on the scorecard. Zimmerman picked up the slack for his second baseman, however, smacking his second hit of the day in the form of a double into the right field corner. Harper scored easily from third, giving the Nats a 3-0 cushion.
• Sammy Solis worked around a one-out Chase d’Arnaud single for a clean eighth inning.
The Nats would be unable to add to their lead before reaching the bottom of the ninth, handing the ball to Blake Treinen looking for his fourth save of the year.
• Freeman reached base for the fourth straight plate appearance on a single to lead off the ninth, but was called out at second on a fielder’s choice.
Markakis made it to first just in time to avoid the double play, and was rewarded with a trip over to second when Phillips singled to right.
Pinch hitter Tyler Flowers drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Treinen then allowed the Nats’ first run of the evening by walking Suzuki and bring Markakis in to score.
Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker decided he’d seen enough, lifting Treinen and bringing in Shawn Kelley to close out the game.
Kelley forced Emilio Bonficacio to pop out to Harper in shallow right field, whose strong throw to plate held Phillips at third. d’Arnaud would then strike out to allow the Nats to edge out the 3-1 victory.
Washington now 8-5.