By DAVID GINSBURG, AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Unlike most teams locked in a pennant race get excited about a doubleheader split.
That wasn’t the case with the Atlanta Braves, who were absolutely delighted after Ender Inciarte snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run triple in a 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
The thing is, the Braves had already lost the opener 8-3 and were going up against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in the latter half of the day-night doubleheader.
Seeking to win his sixth straight start, Scherzer left in a tie game and Atlanta jumped on Washington’s bullpen in the ninth.
“It’s huge for us, splitting today after a tough loss in the first one,” said Charlie Culberson, who homered in each game. “We battled, we stayed in there and Ender came up big for us with that hit in the ninth.”
Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis singled off Kelvin Herrera (1-2) before Inciarte hit a liner down the first-base line. The ball bounced off a low barrier in foul ground and momentarily eluded Bryce Harper, who had no options by the time he picked it up in right field.
That was the final pitch thrown by Herrera, who left after a visit from Washington’s trainer.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Herrera’s right shoulder tightened up him. The closer will have an MRI on Wednesday to determine the extent of the damage.
Jesse Biddle (3-0) pitched 1 2/3 innings and A.J. Minter got three outs for his ninth save.
The defeat ended Washington’s run of nine wins in 12 games. The Nationals are chasing first-place Philadelphia and Atlanta in the NL East.
“Two good teams tonight,” Scherzer said. “Everybody was out there grinding. It just happens that they won. Proud of everybody’s effort. Doubleheader, hot day, this was good baseball.”
Scherzer gave up one run and four hits in seven innings with six strikeouts. He remains unbeaten since July 2.
Sean Newcomb allowed one run and five hits over six sharp innings for the Braves, who have won seven of nine.
The Nationals went up 1-0 in the first inning when 19-year-old Juan Soto homered on an opposite-field drive to left.
Atlanta put runners on the corners with no outs in the fourth before Scherzer deftly worked out of the jam.
But Culberson tied it in the sixth with a drive to left . Four of his seven home runs this season have come against Washington.
In the first game, Ryan Zimmerman and Trea Turner had three hits apiece and Harper added two hits and two RBIs.
Jefry Rodriguez (1-1) allowed one run and three hits in five innings in his first major victory. He also got his first big league hit and scored a run.
Greg Holland, who went 0-2 with a 7.29 ERA with St. Louis, struck out the side during a scoreless seventh inning in his Nationals debut.
Holland, who pitched for Kansas City in the 2014 World Series, was signed Tuesday morning as a free agent.
Harper led off the fourth with his 27th home run, and Zimmerman followed a drive far over the center-field wall for a 2-1 lead. After Rodriguez doubled with two outs, Turner and Soto hit RBI singles.
All the damage came against 20-year-old Kolby Allard (1-1), recalled from the minors to be the 26th man in the doubleheader. Starter Max Fried was struck in the lower back by a line drive in the second inning and removed with a left groin strain.
The weirdest play of Game 1 came in the third inning, when Soto hit a liner to center with Turner on first base. Inciarte leaped at the wall, and the ball appeared to bounce from his glove into the mitt of left fielder Adam Duvall. Turner scampered back to first. After a replay, it was determined that Inciarte trapped the ball against the wall and Soto was called out for passing Turner on the basepath.
Braves: Fried hopes to avoid a trip to the disabled list. “Physically, where the ball hit me I’ll be fine,” he said. “Groin, I’m not expecting it to be a long time.”
Braves: Mike Foltynewicz (8-7, 3.04 ERA) starts Wednesday night, looking for a sufficient encore to his last outing against Washington, a two-hit shutout with 11 Ks on June 1.
Nationals: LH Tommy Milone (1-0, 3.00 ERA) makes his first career start against Atlanta. He yielded four runs in two relief appearances last year.