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Washington Nationals drop finale with Atlanta Braves, 8-4: Max Scherzer falters late in start

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Things got ugly quickly once Max Scherzer got around 114 pitches this afternoon in the nation’s capital...

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

Things fell apart quickly when Max Scherzer returned to the mound in the sixth at 104 total pitches, with a 4-2 lead, and gave up a one-out single by Atlanta Braves’ outfielder Nick Markakis on his 114th pitch, and then a two-run home run by Adam Duvall on his 116th pitch, 4-4. Austin Riley singled on pitch No. 118 from the Washington Nationals’ ace, before Ozzie Albies homered on No. 119, 6-4 Braves. That escalated quickly. That’s also a lot of pitches.

Braves took 3 of 4 in D.C. with an 8-4 win in today’s series finale, which is the final game of the year between the NL East rivals... unless, you know, some sort of mirac— nah, never happen...

Scherzer vs ATL: Max Scherzer had a six-start unbeaten streak snapped in his first start of September, when he gave up seven hits, three walks, and three earned runs in six innings of work on the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Scherzer bounced back from that start with seven scoreless against the Tampa Bay Rays in last Monday’s series opener in the nation’s capital, giving up six hits and one walk in a 104-pitch appearance.

“His fastball was good, and located really well,” Manager Davey Martinez said after the start.

“That’s the Max that we know right there. He really pitched well. Needed that today. Needed those seven innings from him, and he did it pretty easy.”

A one-out double to center by Freddie Freeman and a two-out RBI double to right-center by Travis d’Arnaud gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the first this afternoon.

d’Arnaud singled his way on to start the Braves’ half of the fourth, took second on a wild pitch, and then scored on a one-out double to right-center by Nick Markakis to make it 2-1 Braves.

It was 2-2 when Scherzer came back out for the fifth and added two Ks but gave up a two-out single by Freddie Freeman and a walk to Marcell Ozuna on his 27th pitch of the inning, which had him up to 101 overall, then a fly to right by Travis d’Arnaud ended a 30-pitch frame.

It was 4-2 in the Nationals’ favor when Scherzer returned to the mound in the sixth, and gave up a one-out single by Nick Markakis, and a two-run home run by Adam Duvall (on Scherzer’s 116th pitch), 4-4, and Austin Riley singled on pitch No. 118, before Ozzie Albies homered on No. 119, 6-4 Braves. That was it for Max...

Max Scherzer’s Line: 5.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 10 Ks, 2 HRs, 119 P, 81 S, 1/4 GO/FO.

Wright vs D.C.: Braves’ righty Kyle Wright, a 2017 1st Round pick, taken 5th overall out of Vanderbilt, was sent to the Braves’ Alternate Training Site after starting (0-3) in four starts this season, with a 7.20 ERA, 16 walks, 12 Ks, and a .288/.440/.441 line against over 15 IP. He was called back up to face the Miami Marlins this past week, and suffered a fourth loss, giving up seven hits (three home runs) and five runs total in a four-inning, 83-pitch outing in a 8-0 L for Atlanta.

“My fastball, I thought was really good today, just didn’t really have a great feel for my slider in particular, which is usually kind of the go-to put-away, so I was kind of forced to throw a lot of fastballs, and they were able to kind of stay on that pitch,” Wright explained after that outing.

Wright tossed a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 first today after the Braves jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but the first pitch of the second went out to right on a line as Asdrúbal Cabrera tied it up with one swing, 1-1. Cabrera’s 6th HR of the season.

Juan Soto doubled to lead off the fourth, a half-inning after the Braves took a 2-1 lead, and took third on an Asdrúbal Cabrera fly to right field before scoring ahead of a throw home on Kurt Suzuki’s grounder to second, 2-2. Soto’s 10th double. Suzuki’s 11th RBI.

With the score still tied at 2-2, Luis García and Victor Robles singled their way on to start the bottom of the fifth. Adam Eaton bunted for a base-loading hit, bringing Trea Turner up with an RBI opportunity he cashed in with a grounder up the middle, on which the Braves got a force at second, before throwing away the throw to first base, another run came in on the throwing error, 4-2.

Wright came back out for the sixth with a 6-4 lead, and gave up back-to-back, two-out hits by Carter Kieboom and Luis García, both of whom singled to center, and both of whom were stranded at the end of a 22-pitch frame.

Kyle Wright’s Line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 96 P, 60 S, 6/3 GO/FO.

3-6-5 double play?: With runners on first and second and one out for Carter Kieboom in the fourth, Kieboom hit a low pop towards the right side of the infield that Freddie Freeman dropped on the outfield grass, seemingly unintentionally. Freeman recovered, and threw to second for a force on Eric Thames, and shortstop Dansby Swanson threw to third base to get Kurt Suzuki (who was tagged) for out No. 3 and a 3-6-5 inning-ending double play. That was weird...

Turn-On: Trea Turner started today’s series finale with the Braves with a 10-game hit streak going, over which the 27-year-old shortstop was 15 for 42 (.357 AVG) with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, nine RBIs, five walks, six stolen bases, and 10 runs scored. He talked after extending the streak last night about not really caring too much about his hit streak or hit streaks in general when it came up.

“I don’t care necessarily for the streaks. I feel like it’s a lot of luck and a lot of, I don’t know, just an unimportant statistic,” Turner said. Well, fine. I guess we won’t track if he extended the streak.

[ed. note - “He went 0 for 5 with two Ks. Streak over. Long live the streak.”]

[Note to ed. -“I said we’re not going to track it!”]

BULLPEN ACTION: Wander Suero took over for Max Scherzer in the sixth with the Braves up 6-4, and finished up the frame without further damage.

Kyle Finnegan got the ball in the seventh and struck out the side in a dominant, 17-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

Tyler Matzek walked Adam Eaton to start the seventh, but struck out Trea Turner and Juan Soto before the Braves went to the pen again.

Darren O’Day took over with Asdrúbal Cabrera at the plate, and walked him to put two on, after Eaton stole second. Kurt Suzuki got an RBI opportunity, but popped up to the short grass in left to end the threat.

Ryne Harper retired the Braves in order in the top of the eighth.

A.J. Minter worked around a one-out walk to Michael A. Taylor in a 23-pitch bottom of the eighth.

Harper returned to the mound in the top of the ninth and walked Ozzie Albies. Two outs (and two Ks) later, the Nationals walked Freddie Freeman intentionally. Marcell Ozuna hit one out to left to bring Albies around and make it 7-4 in the Braves’ favor.

James Bourque took over with runners on the corners and one out, and got a grounder back to the mound, but threw to second trying for a double play and settled for a force while the eighth run scored, 8-4.

Chris Martin came on for the Braves in the home-half of the ninth and retired the Nationals in order to end it.

Final Score: 8-4 Braves

Nationals now 17-28