Max Scherzer may have done some damage to his case for a third straight NL Cy Young award with a rough, four-inning outing against the Atlanta Braves in SunTrust Park which saw the 34-year-old righty give up seven hits, three walks, and six earned runs before he was done after having thrown 102 pitches overall in what ended up being a 10-5 loss for Washington’s Nationals and their ace.
Scherzer in Atlanta: In 10 second-half starts before tonight’s outing in Atlanta, Nats’ ace Max Scherzer was (5-1) with a 2.12 ERA, 12 walks, 89 strikeouts, and a .189/.235/.287 line against in 68 IP.
Scherzer was coming off a complete game against the Chicago Cubs in which he struck out 11 of the 36 batters he faced, giving up nine hits and three earned runs in a 10-3 win.
In four starts against the Braves this season, Scherzer was (2-1) with a 1.67 ERA, four walks, 30 Ks, and a .204/.235/.306 in 27 IP before tonight.
It did not go well.
Scherzer worked a leadoff double by Ronald Acuna, Jr. in the first, and got a 2-0 lead to work with in the top of the second.
A hit-by-pitch on Charlie Culberson and a double to right by Ender Inciarte put runners on second and third with no one out in the bottom of the second, however, but Scherzer struck the next two batters out before issuing a base-loading, two-out walk to the opposing pitcher, Kevin Gausman, setting Acuna up with an RBI opportunity he cashed in with a two-run single to right on a soft pop on a 3-2 slider outside, 2-2.
Clutch.#ChopOn pic.twitter.com/QWPYQ64gPf— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 15, 2018
A one-out walk to Nick Markakis in the third, a two-out double by Ender Inciarte and a two-run single by Tyler Flowers gave the Braves a 4-2 lead in the third.
Go with the Flow!#ChopOn pic.twitter.com/jxe8Gz5MS1— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 15, 2018
Acuna, Jr. tripled with one down in the fourth, hitting a full-count fastball to left before scoring on a sac fly by Freddie Freeman that put the Braves back on top after the Nats rallied to tie it at 4-4, and another two-out single (by Nick Markakis) made it, 6-4 ATL.
Scherzer threw 30 pitches total in the fourth, and was done for the night after just four innings...
Max Scherzer’s Line: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 102 P, 61 S, 0/2 GO/FO.
Gausman vs Washington: Braves’ righty Kevin Gausman was unbeaten over five starts from August 10th through September 1st, with a 1.09 ERA, five walks, 24 Ks, and .171/.211/.256 line against in 33 IP over that stretch, but he took a loss the last time out before tonight, giving up seven hits, four walks, and four earned runs in a 5-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Gausman’s only start against the Nationals before tonight came back in June, when he was still part of the Baltimore Orioles’ rotation.
He gave up four hits, four walks, and two runs in that outing, receiving no decision in what ended up a 4-2 loss for the O’s.
Gausman’s first walk of the night came around to score with Juan Soto taking the free pass, taking third on a Ryan Zimmerman single, and scoring on a groundout by Matt Wieters, 1-0, and 2-0 on a sac fly to left by Wilmer Difo.
It was 4-2 Braves after three innings, but the Nationals tied it up when Juan Soto hit a first-pitch fastball from Gausman out to center for a solo home run to start the fourth, and Ryan Zimmerman hit a 1-1 splitter back to the mound for a single, took second on a throwing error by Gausman on the play, and scored on an RBI double by Wilmer Difo, 4-4.
Juan Soto belts his 20th career HR, becoming the 2nd youngest player (19 years, 324 days) to do so! (Tony Conigliaro, 19 years and 201 days) pic.twitter.com/rWgUsaEJjg— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) September 15, 2018
Gausman tossed a quick, eight-pitch, 1-2-3 shutdown inning in the fifth after the Braves took a 6-4 lead, but a two-out walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the sixth ended his night...
Kevin Gausman’s Line: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 79 P, 50 S, 7/4 GO/FO.
Soto vs Acuna, Jr.: Juan Soto walked and scored a run in the second, and homered to lead off the fourth (No. 20), leaving him two shy of tying Bryce Harper for second-place on the list of the players with the most home runs by a teenager in MLB history.
Ronald Acuna, Jr. was a home run away from the cycle after he’d doubled the first time up, singled to drive in two runs in his second at bat, and tripled to left field and scored the third time to the plate to put Atlanta up 5-4 on Washington in the bottom of the fourth inning.
#SeptemberBaseball pic.twitter.com/Wx4rLUGvL1— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 15, 2018
Acuna, Jr. was 3 for 4 with a run scored and two RBI after he struck out in the bottom of the sixth, against Austen Williams.
Soto was 1 for 3 with a walk, a K, and two runs scored after he struck out with runners on the corners and two out in the seventh.
Acuna, Jr. picked up his fourth hit on a dribbler toward third in his final at bat in the home-half of the eighth, 4 for 5, two runs scored.
BULLPEN ACTION: Austen Williams tossed a relatively quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth after he took over on the mound for Max Scherzer.
Jonny Venters took over for Kevin Gausman after a two-out walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the sixth inning, and Venters walked Matt Wieters to put two on with two out in front of Wilmer Difo, who grounded out to third to end the threat and keep it 6-4 Atlanta.
Williams retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth, but after a double by Ozzie Albies and an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman, he was replaced by Tim Collins for a lefty vs lefty matchup with Nick Markakis which ended in an unintentional walk, and Albies scored on a grounder back towards the mound that bounced off Collins’ glove and died on the infield grass, 7-4.
Dan Winkler gave up a one-out walk to Adam Eaton, who took third when Trea Turner hit a hanging slider to left-center and off the outfield wall for his 23rd double of 2018, bringing Bryce Harper up against a new pitcher, Jesse Biddle.
Harper grounded out to bring Eaton in from third, 7-5, but after a walk to Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto K’d swinging to strand runners on the corners.
Austin Voth retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the seventh.
Brad Brach hit Matt Wieters with one out, gave up a two-out double to left by pinch hitter Mark Reynolds, and walked Adam Eaton to load the bases, but Trea Turner popped out to end the threat. Still 7-5 Braves.
Jimmy Cordero gave up a leadoff, infield single by Ronald Acuna, Jr. in the Braves’ eighth, and Ozzie Albies hit a low liner through short to put two on with no one out. Sammy Solis came on and hit Freddie Freeman with the first pitch he threw, loading the bases with no one out, in front of Nick Markakis, who singled to make it an 9-5 game.
Kyle McGowin came on after Solis gave up a one-out single by Ender Inciarte that loaded the bases back up, and threw a wild pitch that allowed the Braves’ 10th run to score, 10-5.
A.J. Minter threw a quick, 1-2-3 ninth to end it.
Final Score: 10-5 Braves
Nationals now 74-74