Max Scherzer wasn’t sharp, and he needed a ton of pitches (110 total) to get through just five innings on the mound, giving up six hits, two walks, and five runs (two of them earned), in what ended up a 7-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves in the finale of the Washington Nationals’ three-game series in SunTrust Park.
With the win, the Nats’ NL East rivals took 2 of 3 in the first series of 2018 for the divisional rivals.
Mad Max vs Hotlanta: Max Scherzer took the mound this afternoon with a 2.83 ERA and a .193 BAA in 47 2⁄3 career innings pitched between Turner Field and SunTrust Park, having allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of the 11 starts vs the Nationals’ NL East rivals since signing on in Washington in January of 2015.
Scherzer struck out 10 of 24 batters faced in six scoreless against the Cincinnati Reds in his 2018 debut last Friday, but he got in trouble early today with a two-out double by Nationals-killer Freddie Freeman, an error by Wilmer Difo, and a three-run homer to right by Preston Tucker on a hanging 1-2 curve giving Atlanta an early lead in the series finale in the Braves’ home, 3-0.
Scherzer helped his own cause with a two-out RBI single in the second, but got picked off first base to end the frame, 3-1 game.
Scherzer issued his second consecutive leadoff walk in the Braves’ half of the fourth, and a single to left by Charlie Culberson put two on with no one out, but he caught Ryan Flaherty looking with a backdoor 1-2 curve for out No. 1 and strikeout No. 5, and threw a high 0-2 fastball by Carlos Perez for out No. 2 and K No. 6, before the opposing pitcher, righty Mike Foltynewicz hit a high, 2-2 slider to left for a two-out, two-run double, 5-1 Atlanta.
Freddie Freeman doubled off the bricks in right with one down in the Braves’ fifth, and Nick Markakis dropped a single in over short into left on Scherzer’s 100th pitch of the game.
With runners on first and third, Preston Tucker went down swinging at a 3-2 fastball for out No. 2 and K No. 7, and Charlie Culberson popped up to center to end a 22-pitch frame that left Scherzer at 110 pitches.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 110 P, 71 S, 2/5 GO/FO.
Nationals’ Offense: Washington’s offense started the series finale in Atlanta ranked first in the NL in home runs (12), slugging percentage (.508), and OPS (.884), ranked second in runs scored (35) and walks (30), and third in on-base percentage (.376).
For the first time in six games this season, the Nationals failed to score in the top of the first inning this afternoon, but after falling behind, 3-0, they scored in the second with a HBP on Pedro Severino, wild pitch by Mike Foltynewicz, and two-out RBI single by Scherzer getting the Nationals on the board, down 3-1 after one and a half.
Nationals’ Defense: Adam Eaton sprinted to the left-center field gap and made an all-out extra-base-robbing, run-preventing, diving catch to rob Braves’ second baseman Ozzie Albies with a runner on first in the bottom of the third, keeping it a two-run game, 3-1 ATL.
Harper Hit Streak: Bryce Harper started the third of three in SunTrust Park with a 16-game hit streak going against the Braves which dated back to Sept. 18, 2016. Over the course of that streak, the 25-year-old slugger was 21 for 58 (.362 AVG) with five doubles, five HRs, 13 walks, and 15 runs scored. Harper took a four-pitch walk in his first plate appearance, walk No. 8 on the season (vs zero Ks to that point), then struck out for the first time, chasing a high fastball in his second trip to the plate. He K’d swinging in the sixth as well, and walked to start the eighth, but was stranded. A bases loaded opportunity in the ninth ended with a pop-out over the infield, and Harper’s hit streak vs the Braves ended as well.
Folty’s Day Ends: Braves’ righty Mike Foltynewicz held the Nationals to one run on four hits in 5 1⁄3 innings, with his outing ending after a one-out double by Matt Adams on his 95th pitch of the game.
Peter Moylan took over on the mound for Atlanta and walked the first batter he faced, Trea Turner, but got a force at second base on a grounder to short by Michael A. Taylor, before putting Wilmer Difo on with a second walk, loading the bases in front of pinch hitter Brian Goodwin. Braves’ skipper Brian Snitker countered with lefty Sam Freeman, so Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez burned Goodwin and went to Ryan Zimmerman, who worked the count full... and took a called third strike.
Mike Foltynewicz’s Line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 95 P, 54 S, 3/2 GO/FO.
Bullpen Action: Matt Grace worked around a one-out walk in an 18-pitch sixth inning.
A.J. Minter worked a quick, nine-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the seventh for the Braves.
Grace retired the side in order in a 13-pitch seventh that left him at 31 total.
Bryce Harper drew a leadoff walk from Minter the first at bat of the eighth, and the Braves went to the pen after the left-hander popped Matt Adams up for the first out of the inning.
Dan Winkler took over and gave up a one-out single to center by Trea Turner, but stranded the only runner to reach base in the Nationals’ eighth.
Trevor Gott gave up a leadoff walk and a one-out RBI double by Ryan Flaherty as the Braves added to their lead in the eighth inning, 6-1, and a wild pitch (with Miguel Montero crossed up) led to another run scoring, 7-1, when Flaherty came around from second.
Arodys Vizcaino took the mound in the top of the ninth and hit Howie Kendrick in the first at bat, then gave up a one-out single to center by Adam Eaton and a walk to Anthony Rendon that loaded them up in front of Bryce Harper... who popped up on a 98 mph 2-2 fastball for out No. 2. Matt Adams went down swinging in the next at bat to end it. Ballgame.
Final Score: 7-1 Braves
Nationals now 4-2