By Mark Bowman and Carlos Collazo
MLB.com |@mlbbowman |
ATLANTA -- It took a fortunate hop, but the Braves found a way to conquer Max Scherzer, courtesy of a one-out, walk-off single that Cameron Maybin bounced over the third-base bag to conclude Thursday night's 2-1 win over the Nationals at Turner Field.
Scherzer entered the ninth having retired 10 straight batters, going back to Andrelton Simmons' fifth-inning RBI single. But the tide turned when Pedro Ciriaco opened the bottom of the ninth with an infield single. Two batters later, Maybin bounced his game-winning hit over the third-base bag and into left field. Against Washington manager Matt Williams' wishes, the umpires didn't review the play because it was a ruling that occurred in front of the bag.
"I've been pretty comfortable in that situation all year," said Maybin, who wasn't able to corral a Bryce Harper liner in the seventh that led to the Nats' game-tying run. "It's one of those situations where you try to stay relaxed. Sometimes the baseball gods will smile down on you, and they did for me."
While Scherzer was impressive, Braves starter Manny Banuelos stole some of the limelight as he recorded seven strikeouts and threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings in his Major League debut. Banuelos had retired 13 straight batters before he uncorked pitches that hit Denard Span and Danny Espinosa with two outs in the sixth. He exited moments later because of cramping and dehydration.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Pinch-hitting Pedro: Utility infielder Ciriaco started off the game-winning ninth inning for the Braves with an infield single off Scherzer -- just the fourth hit the Nationals' ace had allowed. With that hit, Ciriaco improved his pinch-hitting average to .353 (6-for-17) on the season.
Maybin's dropped ball: Harper led off the top of the seventh inning with a leadoff double after Maybin was unable to hang on to the ball while sliding in the outfield grass. Wilson Ramos made the most of the opportunity and drove in Harper with a RBI single surrendered by David Aardsma.
Setting the tone: After allowing Denard Span to open the game with a single, Banuelos displayed his effective changeup while ending the first inning with consecutive strikeouts of Yunel Escobar and Harper, who also produced an ugly swing and miss on a 3-2 curveball in the fourth. The Braves' rookie also erased Ramos' leadoff single by getting Dan Uggla to ground into a double play. More >
Rare early damage:Eury Perez's one-out single in the third inning was the first hit Scherzer surrendered in a game before the sixth inning since June 9 (a span of three starts). The Braves chipped away again at the Nationals' ace in the fifth when Juan Uribe produced a leadoff double and scored on Andrelton Simmons' one-out single.
"He threw a pretty good pitch to Uribe for the double, a changeup down and in," said Williams. "But [Uribe] was able to sneak it inside the bag. Then the base hit on a slider, that was a good piece of hitting by Simmons. And that was their one run until the last inning."
"To get to our goal, we've got to take some games away from them. That was a pretty important win today." -- Simmons, after the Braves won this three-game series and moved to within five games of the first-place Nationals
"[He] changed speeds, kept it down and out of the strike zone. I don't know what happened to him [when he was forced to leave], but once we got him out of there, we scratched one. But that's all we could get tonight." -- Williams, on Banuelos' effectiveness against Washington in his Major League debut
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Banuelos became the 47th different player to play for the Braves this season, and 11th different member of this group to make his Major League debut. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Braves' franchise record for players used in a season is 50 -- done in 2007.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: The Nats go back to D.C., where Gio Gonzalez will take the mound Friday at 6:05 ET against the Giants for the opener of a three-game series at Nationals Park. It will be the first time Gonzalez toes the rubber since a rain-postponed game limited him to just one inning last Saturday against the Phillies.
Braves:Julio Teheran will take the mound when the Braves begin a three-game series against the Phillies on Friday at 7:35 p.m. ET. Teheran has struggled throughout most of this season, but he has posted a 2.35 ERA in seven home starts.