Max Scherzer and Sean Newcomb had themselves an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel in the nightcap of today’s doubleheader in the nation’s capital, and Washington’s Nationals and Atlanta Braves were tied up at 1-1 when the starters left the mound, with solo homers, by Juan Soto and Charlie Culberson, providing all the scoring through seven innings of play between the NL East rivals.
It was still tied at 1-1 in the top of the ninth, when Kelvin Herrera gave up three hits, singles by Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis, and a two-run triple to right by Ender Inciarte that gave the Braves a 3-1 lead. That’s how it ended.
Scherzer’s Turn: Over a five-start winless streak that stretched from June 2nd to July 10th, Max Scherzer put up a 2.73 ERA and a .178/.265/.322 line against in 33 innings. Going into tonight’s outing, however, he was unbeaten in his last five starts, with a 2.91 ERA and a .216/.269/.416 line against in 34 innings, coming off a 10-K, 110-pitch effort against the Cincinnati Reds in which he gave up four hits, two walks, and two earned runs in six innings.
One of the five wins over his win streak was against the same Atlanta squad he was facing tonight, when he gave up eight hits, a walk, and two earned runs over six innings in his first start out of the All-Star Break.
“The Braves, a division team, they know everything I’ve got,” Scherzer said that night. “They absolutely grind apart every at bat, it’s really hard to put them away, and it showed today.”
In addition to his five-start win streak, Scherzer had a five-game hit streak heading into the game tonight, which he extended with a single on an 0-2 curve from Sean Newcomb, after he’d tossed three scoreless on 38 pitches.
Scherzer walked Freddie Freeman to start the Braves’ fourth, however, and Nick Markakis won an eight-pitch battle, lining a 95 mph 3-2 fastball to center field for a single that sent Freeman to third.
Kurt Suzuki went down swinging, however, Ender Inciarte popped out to the infield for the second out, and Johan Camargo sent a groundout to second to end a 33-pitch frame, and Scherzer’s fourth scoreless inning.
He needed just 10 pitches to get through the fifth with a 1-0 lead intact, but a solo shot to left by Charlie Culberson tied it up in the first at bat of the sixth, 1-1.
Scherzer came back out for the seventh at 98 pitches, and threw a 15-pitch, 1-2-3 frame that ended his outing, striking Dansby Swanson out with a 97 mph fastball on his 113th pitch.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 113 P, 83 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
We should mention Max Scherzer is also batting .300. pic.twitter.com/KQs2la5AUe— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 8, 2018
Newcomb vs the Nationals: In two starts against the Nationals earlier this season, Braves’ lefty Sean Newcomb went (1-1) with a 5.56 ERA and a .220/.313/.341 line against in 11 1⁄3 IP.
Going into his third outing of the season against Atlanta’s NL East rivals, Newcomb, 25, was coming off back-to-back wins in which he gave up five hits and two earned runs over 14 2⁄3 innings against the Marlins and Dodgers, and he was pitching on extra rest after he tossed a total of 134 pitches trying for a no-hitter which he lost with two out in the ninth inning in a win over Los Angeles.
Any hope of another no-hit bid this time out ended one out into the bottom of the first inning, when Juan Soto hit an 0-2 fastball out to left for an opposite field blast and a 1-0 Nats’ lead.
No. 14 of 2018 for Soto.
0-2 count. Opposite field. Juan Soto is good at baseball. pic.twitter.com/E7mrAssOHX— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 7, 2018
Newcomb held the Nationals there through four, working around a two-out single by Ryan Zimmerman to get through the fourth on 68 pitches overall.
Michael A. Taylor hustled out of the box and kept running on a pop to short right that Nick Markakis couldn’t come up with, so Taylor was standing on second with a leadoff double in the Nationals’ fifth when the right fielder threw it back in.
Trea Turner walked with two down, but Newcomb caught Juan Soto looking with a 3-2 slider to end the threat. A scoreless, 19-pitch sixth ended his outing.
Sean Newcomb’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 1 HR, 113 P, 83 S, 5/5 GO/FO.
When is a baseball player like a praying mantis?— Cut4 (@Cut4) August 7, 2018
When he catches a fly! pic.twitter.com/iqma6r2Qrw
#JuanPursuit: Juan Soto was 2 for 2 with three walks (one intentional) in the day half of the doubleheader with the Braves, and he started the nightcap with an opposite field blast off Atlanta’s lefty, Sean Newcomb, connecting for his 14th HR of 2018.
As the Nationals noted on Twitter, Soto because the first teenager to reach base five times in a game since Robin Yount in 1975 in the first game.
He extended an on-base streak to 12-straight games in the first of two today, then made it 13 in a row on base with the home run his first time up in the second game.
Juan Soto adds another opposite-field data point to his gorgeous spray chart. pic.twitter.com/qgCdFMvTbE— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) August 7, 2018
BULLPEN ACTION: Dan Winkler and Jesse Biddle combined for a scoreless bottom of the seventh inning.
Ryan Madson needed 12 pitches in a 1-2-3 top of the eighth.
Biddle came back out for the bottom of the eighth, and retired the Nationals in order, striking Juan Soto and Bryce Harper around a pop to foul territory off first by Anthony Rendon.
Kelvin Herrera got the top of the ninth for the Nationals, and gave up a leadoff single to left on a 95 mph first-pitch fastball to Freddie Freeman. Nick Markakis hit a 97 mph 0-1 fastball to left for a second consecutive single, and one out later, both runners scored on line drive to right by Ender Inciarte, 3-1 Braves.
Justin Miller finished off the top of the ninth. A.J. Minter gave up a leadoff double by Ryan Zimmerman, and hit Michael A. Taylor one out later, but Matt Wieters lined into 5-4 DP.
Final Score: 3-1 Braves
Nationals now 58-55