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Scherzer dominant in shutout, Braves fall 2-0 to Nats

Julio Teheran was much improved, but Max Scherzer delivered a dominant pitching performance on a cold April night.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ll permit me to steal appropriate some song lyrics: on a dark, wet night in April, in a DC ballpark where / the Braves went swinging through some fastballs that they knew would not be there.

That pretty much sums it up: Max Scherzer showed off his three-time Cy Young Award winner form, throwing a complete game shutout on just 102 pitches, allowing only two baserunners en route to handing the Braves a 2-0 defeat. It’s hard to talk about this game without simply saying that it was the Max Scherzer show. He faced just one batter over the minimum, struck out 10 Braves, didn’t walk anyone, and didn’t let any runner get past second base. Offensively, he added a hit and stole a base (the first of his career), to boot. With low temperatures and rain in the later innings, the Braves didn’t stand much of a chance, not with Scherzer dealing. He retired the last 15 batters he faced, striking out six of them. It was a dramatic turnaround for a guy who got knocked around and somewhat rattled by the Braves just a week ago, when he allowed five runs in five frames and left having reached that same triple-digit pitch plateau that carried him through the entirety of tonight’s game.

Speaking of turnarounds, Julio Teheran also enjoyed some improved performance, though he ended up being the hard-luck loser. Unlike Scherzer, Teheran was in and out of danger all night, and unfortunately for the Braves, the danger turned to runs in the first inning. After a strikeout of Trea Turner to start the home first, Teheran allowed a double to Anthony Rendon and then (smartly) walked nemesis Bryce Harper. A strikeout of Ryan Zimmerman gave Teheran a path to escape trouble, but Howie Kendrick bounced a ball down the third-base line. That easily allowed Rendon to score, and the ball headed into foul territory and caromed off the wall, letting Harper score as left fielder Preston Tucker had to change direction to come up with the ball. Teheran struck out Brian Goodwin to end the inning, but the damage was done. Those were the only two runs scored in the game.

Teheran’s night, however, was fairly adventurous throughout. After a 1-2-3 second with two strikeouts, he issued two walks in the third (Turner and Harper) but got two flyouts to end the inning. There was another leadoff walk and a double in the fourth, but a strikeout of Scherzer and a tapper back to the mound from Turner ended that threat. A leadoff single yielded nothing for the Nats in the fifth, and in the sixth, Teheran allowed a double to Michael Taylor but then picked him off of second base after a replay review overturned the umpire’s call.

Teheran finished the outing with six frames, five hits allowed, four walks, and seven strikeouts. While it could have been worse, it was a far cry from the back-to-back disaster starts he had previously endured, and something to build off going forward.

The Braves offense, meanwhile, had considerably fewer positives to take from this game after running into the Scherzer buzzsaw. A Kurt Suzuki single in the second and a Nick Markakis single in the fifth were the only blemishes on Scherzer’s line; Suzuki was also promptly erased on a Preston Tucker double play ball after reaching base.

Peter Moylan came in to pitch the seventh and worked around Scherzer’s hit and stolen base, as well as a walk to Harper (intentional this time) to keep runs off the board. Luke Jackson then came on for his first Braves appearance of 2018 and tossed a scoreless frame of his own despite two walks, thanks to some very generous strike three calls from home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor.

The Braves went very quietly in the ninth, as Ryan Flaherty grounded out on the first pitch, Charlie Culberson went down on a check-swing strike, and Ender Inciarte couldn’t catch up to a 95-mph fastball on the outer edge to end the contest.

Ender Inciarte, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman each struck out twice in the contest. Julio Teheran held Bryce Harper hitless, as Harper finished the night 0-for-1 with three walks and a run. His out was a pop-up, and Harper was audibly enraged at the outcome, perhaps because he knew he wasted a chance with a very hittable 90-mph Teheran fastball that was up and around the middle of the zone.

These two teams tangle again tomorrow night, as Mike Foltynewicz will square off against Stephen Strasburg.

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