ATLANTA — With Max Scherzer’s pitch count already over 100, Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker was prepared to remove his right-hander from the Tuesday game after six innings.
Scherzer had other ideas.
“Max wanted to go out in the seventh,” Baker said. “He knows we’ve been struggling in the bullpen, and he said he had 110 pitches or more in him. I said, ‘You’re at 103 right now.’ He said, ‘I promise you I’ve got some more.'”
Scherzer worked another scoreless frame — as promised — to complete a seven-inning, no-run, two-hit effort, and Washington defeated Atlanta 3-1 to hand the Braves their first loss in new Sun Trust Park.
Scherzer (2-1) struck out seven and walked three in recording his third consecutive quality start. He allowed only two runners to reach scoring position and improved to 6-3 in his career against the Braves. He threw 116 pitches, 76 for strikes.
“When you see a guy like Max doing all he has … we always tell our pitchers ‘shutdown innings,’ and he went out and showed them how to shut down after you get a couple of runs,” Baker said.
Washington survived another bullpen meltdown. Sammy Solis pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but closer Blake Treinen loaded the bases in the ninth and allowed a run. Shawn Kelley entered and retired Emilio Bonifacio on a fly to right and struck out Chase d’Arnaud to end the game and earn his first save.
The game had a bizarre ending. D’Arnaud appeared to swing and miss to end the game with a strikeout, but plate umpire C.B. Bucknor said d’Arnaud tipped the ball. The Braves left the field, the Nationals were shaking hands, and the grounds crew had already wheeled out the equipment when officials said the game was not finished.
Kelley then threw the same pitch to d’Arnaud, who swung and missed again, to end the game officially.
“I guess I tipped it,” d’Arnaud said. “I didn’t feel it. I thought the game was over. Next thing I know, I’m back up there. It was bizarre. I wish the outcome had been different.”
Baker said, “From where I was, it looked like he missed it by a foot. I think (Atlanta third base coach Ron Washington) helped talk them into a foul tip, but it wasn’t a foul tip from where we were. It was kind of a rough night all the way around.”
Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz (0-2) pitched seven innings and allowed two runs on five hits and four walks. He had three strikeouts and one wild pitch.
“I was effectively wild,” Foltynewicz said. “My fastball was great early and great at the end.”
Washington’s seven-hit attack was led by right fielder Bryce Harper, who had a pair of opposite-field doubles, a walk and a run. Harper is 5-for-8 with two doubles and two homers over his past two games and is hitting .354.
Harper’s second double came in the eighth against reliever Eric O’Flaherty. He came around to score on Ryan Zimmerman’s two-out double to right. Zimmerman was 2-for-3 with a walk, and he is batting .356.
Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman was 2-for-2 with two walks. He is 6-for-6 over the past two games, reaching base in his past 10 plate appearances while improving his batting average to .444.
Washington (8-6) has won two straight games. Atlanta (6-7) had its five-game winning streak broken. The Braves had been 4-0 in the new ballpark.
The Nationals had a scoring opportunity in the fourth inning but failed to execute.
Harper led off with a hustle double, and Zimmerman reached on a one-out walk. However, Harper got caught wandering too far off the bag and was thrown out at second base. Jayson Werth was called out on strikes to end the threat.
The Braves also wasted an opportunity when they had runners on the corners in the fourth inning. Adonis Garcia grounded into a double play, the first turned in support of Scherzer this season, to put out the fire.
The Nationals broke through for two runs in the fifth. Matt Wieters led off with a double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Wilmer Difo, his first RBI of the season. Scherzer sacrificed Difo to second, and the runner scored on Adam Eaton’s single up the middle.
NOTES: Washington improved to 37-13 against the Braves since June 21, 2014. … Washington will recall RHP Joe Ross and place him in the rotation, beginning with Wednesday’s game in Atlanta. Ross was sent to the minor leagues to start the season because the team did not need a fifth starter. … Nationals SS Trea Turner (right hamstring) is almost ready to return but is expected to require a rehab start in a warm climate, manager Dusty Baker said. … Atlanta OF Matt Kemp (right hamstring) will play a rehab game in Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday and is expected to join the Braves’ roster on Thursday. … Atlanta C Tyler Flowers (right hamstring) was expected to be available to play the field again on Wednesday.