Max Scherzer struggled in the seventh inning last time out, when he faced the Atlanta Braves in the nation’s capital during the recently-completed homestand. He came out at 97 pitches in the seventh in that start, walked three straight and four overall in the inning, and gave up a single and five earned runs (three of which scored on a grand slam off Brandon Kintzler), for a season-high seven earned runs allowed in what ended up a 116-pitch outing.
It was part of a game plan that he discussed with Washington’s manager Dusty Baker, and Nationals’ pitching coach Mike Maddux before the start, and the Nats stuck with the plan in spite of Scherzer’s late-start struggles.
Tonight, in SunTrust Park, Scherzer gave up two runs over six innings, and came back in the seventh at 97 pitches again, but this time he retired the side in order in a 15-pitch frame that left him at 112 pitches total. Phew.
Scherzer earned the win, his 15th, in what ended up a 4-2 win for the Nationals.
Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman drove in the Nationals’ first two runs with RBI singles in the third, and Zimmerman singled in another run in the fifth before Anthony Rendon doubled to drive Turner in for the fourth run of the game in the seventh.
Nationals now 91-59
HERE’S HOW IT HAPPENED:
• Ryan Zimmerman’s leadoff double in the second was his 30th two-base hit of the season, (30 2B/33 HRs), but he was stranded three outs later as the Nats came up empty against Braves’ lefty Luiz Gohara, who tossed two scoreless on 24 pitches.
• Matt Wieters snapped an 0 for 17 stretch at the plate with a leadoff double in the top of third, and he moved up on a Max Scherzer bunt before scoring on an RBI single to center by Trea Turner, 1-0. Turner took third one out later on a single by Anthony Rendon, stumbling around second, and he scored on a two-out grounder through the left side by Zimmerman, 2-0.
• Max Scherzer retired the first nine batters he faced on 42 pitches, striking out four, and retired two batters in the fourth before Freddie Freeman powered a jam shot to right field for a two-out single. Nick Markakis followed with the second hit off of the Nats’ right-hander, and Kurt Suzuki battled for 10 pitches before singling to left field to drive Freeman in, 2-1.
• Jayson Werth doubled to left (No. 8) with one out in the Nationals’ half of the fifth, then scored on a two-out grounder toward third base by Ryan Zimmerman that took a tough, late hop on Braves’ third baseman Rio Ruiz and bounced off the infielder’s wrist, 3-1.
2017MaxScherzerStrikeout250.gif pic.twitter.com/7BFmY7j4Dp— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 20, 2017
• Scherzer issued his first walk of the night in the first at bat of the Braves’ fifth, and Lane Adams, who took the free pass, scored on an RBI double to left field by Dansby Swanson, when Atlanta’s shortstop connected on a 2-2 two-seamer to make it a one-run game again, 3-2.
• Trea Turner doubled to right on the first pitch from Gohara in the seventh and stole third on the first pitch to Jayson Werth in the next at bat (SB No. 41).
Turner scored one out later on an RBI double to left by Anthony Rendon, who hit an 0-2 slider by the third base bag, 4-2. Rendon’s 39th double.
• Luiz Gohara’s Line: 6.1 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 93 P, 71 S, 6/7 GO/FO.
• Scherzer came back out for the seventh at 97 pitches, and retired the side in order in a 15-pitch frame that left him at 112 total.
• Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 112 P, 83 S, 7/5 GO/FO.
• Ryan Madson worked around a leadoff walk in a scoreless, 18-pitch eighth.
• Sean Doolittle came on in the ninth looking for save No. 19 in 19 opportunities with the Nationals and retired the side in order. Ballgame. Final Score: 4-2 Nationals.
NATIONALS PREGAME NOTES:
- Washington starts this week’s three-game set with a 124-113 lead in the all-time series with Atlanta, having gone 44-21 against their NL East rivals since June of ‘14.
- The Nationals and Braves have split the 16 games they’ve played this season with Washington 4-6 at home and 4-2 in Atlanta.
- Washington’s 45-27 record on the road heading into this week’s series is the NL’s best road record, and they’re four wins shot of setting a franchise mark for the most wins in a single season which is currently held by the 2012 Nats (48-33).
- With Sunday’s win, Dusty Baker joined John McGraw (16), Joe McCarthy (15), Bobby Cox (15), Connie Mack (13), Joe Torre (12), Tony La Russa (12), Earl Weaver (11), Casey Stengel (11), Al Lopez (10), Walter Alston (10), and Sparky Anderson as the 12th MLB Manager to win 90 games or more in 10+ seasons.
- Since the All-Star Break, the Nationals and Brewers are tied for the NL lead in team ERA among relievers.
- Washington’s offense started the series in Atlanta leading the NL in SLG (.452) and OPS (.784), and the Nationals are ranked second in AVG (.268), extra-base hits (514), and runs scored (764).
- Max Scherzer started the night (7-3) in 10 starts against the Braves since he joined the Nationals in 2015.
Nationals now 91-59