By Mark Bowman and Jamal Collier
MLB.com |@mlbbowman |
ATLANTA -- It was a new setting but a familiar result for Max Scherzer and the Nationals, who used a two-run fifth inning to mar Mike Foltynewicz's strong start and claim a 3-1 win over the streaking Braves on Tuesday night at SunTrust Park.
Scherzer extended his early-season success as he recorded seven strikeouts and allowed just two hits over seven scoreless innings. His effort helped the Nationals improve to 16-4 since the start of 2016 against the Braves, who had won five straight games, including each of the previous four played within their new ballpark.
"Against a guy like [Scherzer], you hope you can run his pitch count up and get him out of the game and try the bullpen because he's really good," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's a tough matchup, but we hung in there and gave ourselves a chance at the end."
The Braves made things interesting in the ninth as Nationals closer Blake Treinen allowed two hits and issued two walks, including one to Kurt Suzuki, before exiting with one out. Shawn Kelley ended the drama in a unique manner when he induced Emilio Bonifacio's weak flyout to right and then twice completed a strikeout of Chase d'Arnaud.
As the ground crew brought the tractors around the warning track and the visitors were shaking hands, home-plate umpire CB Bucknor ruled d'Arnaud foul-tipped what had appeared to be the last pitch of the game.
"I was celebrating and happy and high-fiving everybody," Kelley said. "And then when I saw the umps talking I said, 'OK, I think this is going to go bad. We're probably going to have to throw another pitch.' So I kind of stepped back to the back of the mound for a minute while everybody was kind of getting back into position."
After d'Arnaud got a second life on a pitch he said he didn't feel he tipped, Kelley threw him the exact same pitch, a slider that d'Arnaud swung at and missed for what truly proved to be the game's final pitch. The Nationals escaped with a victory, but they were not happy with the way the final out went down, especially left fielder Jayson Werth who was restrained by his teammates to avoid a confrontation with Buckner.
"What happens if that guy gets a hit and ties it up, and then we play all night?" Werth said. "That affects the rest of the season. It just blows my mind, it really does. I can't really say what I want to say."
Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton recorded RBI singles during the decisive two-run fifth inning against Foltynewicz, who gave up just the two runs on five hits over seven frames. The Braves' right-hander retired each of the final seven batters faced, but he didn't gain any offensive support as Scherzer permitted just two baserunners to advance past first base.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Two was enough: Foltynewicz began the fifth inning with a first-pitch changeup that Matt Wieters drilled into the right-field corner for a double. Difo followed with an RBI single and scored when Eaton hit a changeup on the outside corner to center field to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead. The flustered Braves starter walked the next two batters faced, but he escaped without incurring further damage when Ender Inciarte caught Daniel Murphy's long drive in front of the right-center-field wall. More >
Not capitalizing: After Nick Markakis followed Freddie Freeman's leadoff walk with a bloop single in the fourth inning, Brandon Phillips hit into a fielder's choice and Adonis Garcia grounded into his team-high fourth double play. The only other baserunner to reach second base against Scherzer was Jace Peterson, who walked to begin the third before being stranded when Dansby Swanson struck out for the second time on the night.
"We had one opportunity where we could have gotten something against him, and he shut us down and then he got even more fired up and kept going," Freeman said. "When he's out there throwing  pitches and he's still throwing 95 [mph], you know it's going to be a tough game."
"It looked like he missed it by about 8 inches. Then, they called a foul tip. That's good for us. We got another pitch and another opportunity to win the game." -- Snitker, on the foul tip that gave d'Arnaud another chance in the ninth inning.
"We got to do something to shore up our closer situation because this ain't working." -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
After recording four extra-base hits, including a pair of homers on Monday night, Freeman opened this series by going 2-for-2 with a pair of walks. The Braves' first baseman has reached safely in each of his past 10 plate appearances dating back to Sunday and is hitting .577 (15-for-26) over his past eight games.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals:Joe Ross will make his 2017 debut when he is promoted from the Minors to start at 7:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday against the Braves. In two starts at Triple-A Syracuse, he gave up five runs (four earned) in 9 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts and three walks.
Braves:Julio Teheran will take the mound when Atlanta and Washington resume the three-game series on Wednesday night. Teheran has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his seven career home starts against the Nationals.