Max Scherzer gave up four solo home runs over the first three innings in his 2021 debut, but the three-time Cy Young award-winner settled in after that, and ended up retiring the final ten batters he faced as the Nationals rallied to tie things up at 4-4 in the series opener in the nation’s capital.
It was a 5-4 game in the eighth, when Andrew Stevenson hit a one-hop grounder to third in a bases-loaded at bat and reached first safely when it bounced off Austin Riley’s glove, and the tying run came in, 5-5, before the Nationals won it in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off single by Juan Soto off his arch nemesis, Will Smith, 6-5 final in D.C.
Scherzer Solos: Max Scherzer’s first pitch of the 2021 campaign went out to left field in Nationals Park, into the visitor’s bullpen, with Atlanta Braves’ leadoff man Ronald Acuña, Jr. absolutely crushing the 94 MPH fastball, up in the zone and over the middle of the plate, from the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day starter, 1-0 really early.
One out and ten pitches later, Freddie Freeman hit a 3-1 breaking ball out to right field and into the upper deck for the second solo shot of the inning and a 2-0 Braves’ lead.
Dansby Swanson hit the third solo home run of the game off Scherzer on a 95 MPH 2-2 fastball from Scherzer in the first at bat of the top of the second, 3-0.
It was 3-2 when Scherzer took the mound in the top of the third, went full against Acuña, and gave up his fourth solo shot of the game on a slider. Acuña’s 2nd of the game and of the season, 4-2 at that point.
Scherzer retired ten in a row between the third and sixth innings, as the Nationals rallied to tie it up at 4-4, and he was done for the night after 91 pitches overall.
Max Scherzer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 4 HRs, 91 P, 60 S, 2/4 GO/FO.
Freeman ❤️s D.C.: Freddie Freeman started the afternoon with a .324/.400/.531 career line, 51 doubles, and 23 home runs in 163 games and 680 plate appearances against the Nats in his career, and Freeman, 31, had a .326/.411/.510 line, 29 doubles, and nine home runs in 82 games and 353 PAs in D.C. in his 11+ MLB seasons.
Home run No. 23 against the Nationals and 10 in Nationals Park, was a solo shot off starter Max Scherzer (3rd career off Max) in the top of the first, one out after leadoff man Ronald Acuña, Jr. hit one of his own.
Hernán, Andrew, and Jonathan: Hernán Pérez, who signed a minor league deal with the Nationals this winter, Andrew Stevenson, who was supposed to be the fourth outfielder, and Jonathan Lucroy, who joined the club this week, after he failed to make the Chicago White Sox’ roster this spring, combined for the first hit (by Pérez) and first runs (on a 2-out double by Lucroy), of the season for the Nationals with Pérez and Stevenson scoring on a grounder to left by the backstop that got the Nationals on the board, down 4-2 in the second.
Turner Touches Them All: Trea Turner tied things up on the third, hitting a two-run shot to left (after a leadoff Victor Robles’ walk) on a 1-0 fastball from Braves’ lefty Drew Smyly that ended up in the left field bullpen, 4-4. Turner’s 1st of 2021.
BULLPEN ACTION: Kyle Finnegan was first out of the pen this season, coming on in a 4-4 game in the 7th, and he gave up back-to-back, one-out singles by Austin Riley and Cristian Pache, setting the Braves up with a runner in scoring position for pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval, who walked to load the bases before a grounder by Acuña, Jr. brought in the go-ahead run, 5-4.
Wander Suero took over with two runners in scoring position and two out and got out No. 3 on a hard-hit grounder up the middle.
Tyler Matzek took over for the Braves with a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, and gave up a one-out single by Andrew Stevenson (who continued a hitting streak he’d started last season, extending it to 13-straight games with the hit), and back-to-back, two-out walks by both Carter Kieboom and Victor Robles as the National loaded the bases in the one-run game.
Josh Tomlin took over with Trea Turner at the plate and popped him up to end the threat, still 5-4 Braves.
Kyle McGowin worked around a walk in a scoreless, 15-pitch top of the eighth, still 5-4 ATL.
A.J. Minter loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth, as Ryan Zimmerman and Starlin Castro connected for back-to-back, one-out singles before Hernán Pérez walked, and Andrew Stevenson sent a one-hopper to third and off Austin Riley’s glove for a game-tying infield single, 5-5.
Minter got out No. 2 on a force at home plate on a Jonathan Lucroy ground ball, and Yadiel Hernández lined out to left to end the inning.
Daniel Hudson got the ball in the ninth and (after a fly ball by Cristian Pache was originally ruled a home run) worked around a two-out walk to Johan Camargo to keep it tied.
Victor Robles singled on a line drive to right off Braves’ lefty Will Smith to start the bottom of the ninth, and Smith hit Trea Turner in the shin with a slider, putting two runners on for Juan Soto, who got up 3-0 and lined a walk-off winner to center, 6-5 final.
Nationals now 1-0