Max Scherzer issued three straight walks in the seventh inning, pushing him up to 114 pitches total on the night, with the score tied at 2-2 at that point, but the Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker left his ace in there to face one more batter, and it just got worse.
Dansby Swanson sent a two-run single to left, 4-2, and an intentional walk loaded the bases back up and ended Scherzer’s night, before Brandon Kintzler came on and gave up a big grand slam on a hanging first-pitch slider to Matt Kemp, 8-2 Atlanta.
Why did Baker leave Scherzer in? Was he managing to the win stat as it appeared? He’s likely to get those questions after this one. Scherzer clearly hit a wall in the seventh. It is odd that even after the third walk in a row, with the righty well over 100 pitches, the Nats’ manager stuck with him.
In previous instances, Baker’s taken a “who’s going to be better than Max?” approach to these situations, when he’s stuck with the righty, but it will be interesting to hear what he has to say after this one... with the division clinched, Scherzer coming off an issue with his neck a few starts back, etc. More info when it’s available...
Nationals now 88-57
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED:
• Trea Turner singled, stole second (natch) and scored one out later on an RBI double by Anthony Rendon as the Nationals jumped out to a 1-0 lead over the Braves and starter Luiz Gohara early tonight in the nation’s capital, 1-0.
• Max Scherzer worked around three hits and a walk to complete four scoreless on 64 pitches, striking out five of the first 15 batters he faced.
• Howie Kendrick misplayed a one-out fly to left in the Braves’ half of the fifth, getting a bad read and making a late, leaping attempt that came up short and put a runner on third with one out with what was ruled a triple for Lane Adams, who scored on a two-out RBI single to right by Ozzie Albies to tie it up at 1-1.
• Luiz Gohara retired the Nationals in order in the fifth inning, giving him 11-straight outs going back to Jayson Werth’s one-out double in the second, and the nine-pitch frame left him at 54 total after five.
• A one-out walk to Matt Kemp led to the Braves’ second run when Tyler Flowers hit an opposite field, RBI double to right with two down, driving in the go-ahead run with his 15th double on a 95 mph 0-1 fastball outside, 2-1 Braves, but the hit came after Nats’ second baseman Wilmer Difo bobbled a grounder on a potential double play ball off Nick Markakis’s bat and settled for an out at first, leaving the runner who eventually came around in scoring position.
• Trea Turner snapped Gohara’s streak of retired batters with a leadoff single to center in the bottom of the sixth, and took third base on an errant throw on a pick attempt by the Braves’ left-hander, before scoring on an RBI single to center by Wilmer Difo, 2-2.
• Luiz Gohara’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 71 P, 52 S, 3/6 GO/FO.
• Scherzer issued back-to-back walks to the first two batters in the Braves’ half of the seventh, and fell behind Ozzie Albies, 3-1, before he issued his third consecutive walk, on his 114th pitch, but he was inexplicably left in, and Dansby Swanson’s two-run single to left made it 4-2 Braves. Freddie Freeman got the intentionals before Scherzer was done, loading the bases back up.
• Brandon Kintzler came on next and gave up a grand slam on the first pitch he threw to Matt Kemp, a hanging a$$ slider... 8-2.
• Max Scherzer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 6 BB, 7 Ks, 116 P, 74 S, 4/5 GO/FO.
• Braves’ righty Dan Winkler struck out two batters in a quick, 12-pitch seventh, and ATL lefty A.J. Minter collected three Ks in a quick, scoreless eighth (after Matt Grace retired the Braves in order in the top of the frame).
• Shawn Kelley did something to himself on his final warmup pitch, but stayed in after a visit from pitching coach Mike Maddux and the Nats’ trainer and worked around a walk and HBP in a scoreless ninth.
• Lucas Sims finished the Nationals off in the ninth. Ballgame. Final Score: 8-2 Braves.
NATIONALS PREGAME NOTES:
- Washington’s loss last night left them 123-112 in their all-time series with the Atlanta Braves, and the Nationals are 43-20 against their NL East rivals since mid-2014, and 7-7 with the Braves through 14 games this season.
- Washington clinched their fourth division title in the last six seasons last Sunday, and the Nationals are one of five teams with four division titles in a six-year span since baseball returned to the nation’s capital in 2005, joining the Detroit Tigers (2011-14), Los Angeles Angels (four of five from 2005-2009), the Philadelphia Phillies (2007-2011), and Los Angeles Dodgers (2013-2016).
- The Nationals have held first place in the NL East since April 18th, and have been in first in the division for all-but four days this season (April 12-15).
- If the Nationals reach 90 wins (they were at 88 before tonight), they would be the 10th team Dusty Baker has managed to that mark.
- In today’s “Fun With Arbitrary End Points” segment: Nationals’ starters headed into tonight’s game with a 2.76 ERA as a staff... over the last 33 starts and 202 IP, the lowest ERA in the NL over that stretch.
- Nationals’ starters rank first in the majors in ERA (3.48), opponents’ batting average (.230), and opponents’ SLG (.385), and they are ranked third in Ks (904) and third in opponents’ OBP (.298) before tonight.
- Washington’s offense started the night leading the NL in SLG (.455), runs scored (748), and OPS (.790), and the Nationals were ranked second in AVG (.269), and extra-base hits (503).
Nationals now 88-57