Max Scherzer has gone into nearly every ballpark that he’s stepped into this season and either dominated or at least just been good. That was not the case when he stepped into SunTrust Park as Ronald Acuña Jr. and the rest of the Braves lineup made him feel the pain as the Braves rolled to a 10-5 victory.
This game got really interesting during the second, third and fourth innings, which is when the Braves and Nationals traded body blows with each other. The Nationals drew first blood in the second inning when Juan Soto and Ryan Zimmerman made it home via groundout and sacrifice fly to put the first two runs on the board.
On a normal night, those two runs may have been enough for Max Scherzer to cruise on his way to victory. However, this hot and muggy night in Atlanta was anything but normal and it appeared that the heat was taking its toll on the perspiring Scherzer. The Braves took full advantage of this as they proceeded to ding him for runs in each of the next three innings.
Atlanta’s first two runs were an immediate response to the two runs that they conceded in the top half of the second inning. Ender Inciarte doubled home Charlie Culberson to put the home team on the board and then with two outs, Ronald Acuña Jr. came through with a bloop single that tied the game and ended up pushing Scherzer to a 31-pitch second inning.
The Braves continued to frustrate Scherzer, as Washington’s ace probably figured that he was in line for a quick inning after he got Freddie Freeman and Charlie Culberson out. The caveat is that he did walk Nick Markakis and that ended up coming back to bite him as Inciarte once again came up big and brought home Markakis with a double. Tyler Flowers then brought the good fortune that he had in San Francisco back home with him to Cobb County as he poked a dribbler to the left side of the diamond that somehow eluded Washington’s defense for another RBI.
While Max Scherzer was clearly struggling, the Nationals did their best to lift him up by taking it to Kevin Gausman while he was on the mound. While Washington failed to score in the third inning, they got to Gausman in the fourth as Juan Soto led off that frame with an opposite field dinger. After Ryan Zimmerman made it to second base following an error from Gausman, Wilmer Difo tied the game with a deep double. Gausman got a double play to get out of it after Difo slid off the bag while trying to make it to third on a fly ball, but it was still a bit frustrating to see the Braves lose what seemed like a precious lead at that point.
With that being said, there wasn’t much to worry about because the Braves just kept on hitting Scherzer in this one. With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Ronald Acuña Jr. hit what he figured was a smple fly ball. It ended up getting past two outfielders and Acuña found himself at third base with a triple and he was already a homer short of the cycle.
After Ozzie Albies drew a walk, Freddie Freeman got the runner home with a sacrifice fly and then Nick Markakis delivered a single to once again give the Braves a two-run cushion.
Max Scherzer didn’t come out for the fifth inning and as it turns out, SunTrust Park is starting to turn into a house of horrors for the Cy Young candidate.
Markakis' two-out single in the fourth gives the Braves a 6-4 lead. This is the sixth time in 194 starts dating back to the start of 2013 Scherzer has allowed at least six earned runs. The most recent had been against the Braves on Sept. 13, 2017.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) September 15, 2018
While Scherzer exited the game before the fifth inning, the Braves did not stop raking at Washington’s expense. Charlie Culberson added an infield RBI single in the sixth inning and while the Nats did get one of those runs back in a tense seventh inning for the Braves’ bullpen, Atlanta got those runs back and then some in a big eighth inning.
The first four Atlanta hitters all reached base and — surprise, surprise, Nick Markakis was the one who brought Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies home to put a couple more runs on the board. With the bases loaded, Sammy Solis threw a wild pitch past Dansby Swanson and that allowed Freddie Freeman to wheel his way home and just like that, the Braves had a 10-5 lead.
A.J. Minter then entered the game in a stress-free environment and promptly retired the first three batters he faced to lock down the win and chop that Magic Number down to single digits. The Braves have now won six straight games and seem to be peaking at exactly the right time.
A six-game winning streak at any point of the season is good, but when you can rattle off six straight wins in an effort to close out a divisional race, you’re doing real good for yourself and the Braves are playing some very good baseball at the moment.