The Braves continued their season-long struggles against Washington on Friday, falling to their division rivals 7-2. The Nationals were able to jump out front of Atlanta early, giving Max Scherzer all the run support he would need against a Braves lineup that was without Freddie Freeman.
Scherzer improved to 4-0 vs. Atlanta this season, pitching seven innings while allowing just two runs. He also improved upon his National League-leading strikeout total with eight on the night. Conversely, Braves starter John Gant struggled mightily, allowing five runs in just 1.2 innings. The right-hander struggled with command, allowing six hits and walking three in what was, to this point, the worst outing of his young career.
Offensively, it was the Trea Turner show on Friday night as the Nationals rookie went 4-for-5 with a home run, four runs scored, two RBI's, and two stolen bases. His performance was a continuation of his impressive work against the Braves, as he is now hitting .462 with 4 home runs and 14 RBI’s along with six stolen bases. This issue will need to be addressed by the Atlanta staff, as Turner is likely to be mainstay at the top of Washington’s order for a long time.
The Atlanta offense was able to manage nine hits, with Matt Kemp and Ender Inciarte having two each, but timely hits were at a premium as the Braves could only push across two runs, both driven in by Tyler Flowers. The Braves best scoring opportunity came in the seventh, as they had runners on first and second with one out against Scherzer. The rally was promptly ended, however, as Adonis Garcia struck out swinging and Nick Markakis flew out to right field.
On a positive note for Atlanta, outfielder Mallex Smith re-joined the team and delivered a pinch-hit single in his first major league at-bat since June 19. A healthy Mallex Smith should, if nothing else, make the team more fun to watch over the final two weeks as he attempts to re-assert himself as a legitimate candidate for a roster spot in 2017.
Ryan Weber was also a bright spot for the Braves after coming on in relief of Gant in the second inning. Weber would work 4.2 innings of two-hit baseball, allowing one run while striking out five (in a row). The right-hander has experienced his share of struggles this season, as he entered play on Friday with a 6.08 ERA, but the Braves have to hope a solid performance from him tonight may be a sign of progress for the 26-year old.
Friday night’s loss moves the Braves to 56-91 on the season, which for all of you draft hopefuls places them one game "behind" the Twins for the league’s worst record. The Braves and Nationals will square off once again on Saturday as the newly-acquired Josh Collmenter takes the mound for Atlanta against left-hander Gio Gonzalez.