Max Scherzer throws seven scoreless innings, Nationals endure strange finish to beat Braves
ATLANTA -- Max Scherzer turned in another dominant performance, only to be overshadowed by a bizarre ending.
After Scherzer pitched two-hit ball over seven scoreless innings, the Washington Nationals had to strike out Chase d'Arnaud with the bases loaded -- twice, actually -- to escape with a 3-1 victory over the Braves on Tuesday night.
The Nationals snapped Atlanta's five-game winning streak and handed the Braves their first loss at the new SunTrust Park.
Coming on for the ninth with a 3-0 lead, Washington closer Blake Treinen managed to get only one out. He gave up two hits and walked two batters, including light-hitting Kurt Suzuki with the bases loaded to give the Braves a shot.
Shawn Kelley came in and retired Emilio Bonifacio on a fly to short right. D'Arnaud was Atlanta's last hope, and it appeared the game was over when he flailed at a third strike.
The hitter ran toward the dugout, the Nationals celebrated and the grounds crew came onto the field from behind the center-field wall -- one pushing a wheelbarrow. Only one problem: Plate umpire C.B. Bucknor ruled d'Arnaud tipped the pitch foul, even though a replay showed the batter missed the ball by at least six inches.
"I guess I tipped it. I didn't feel it. I thought the game was over," d'Arnaud said. "The next thing I know, I'm back up there."
The Nationals were livid over the call, which wasn't subject to a video review.
"From where I was, it looked like he missed it a foot," Washington manager Dusty Baker said. "It was just a mess. That's all I've got to say."
Kelley made it a moot point by getting d'Arnaud to swing and miss again.
This time, there was no doubt the game was over -- though Washington's Jayson Werth continued to gripe at Bucknor as the umpires left the field.
"This is my like my 14th year in the big leagues," Werth told reporters after the game. "You see a lot of things, but when it's consistently not with the standards of the league, I think something needs to be done. I just can't believe that every time it's bottom of the barrel. Every time. I know I'm handcuffed here. I can't say a whole lot. I don't want to get suspended. But these games are serious. That's the thing. These games mean a lot. The game is over there, and all of a sudden it's not over.
"I'm not even talking about balls and strikes or anything else. It just blows my mind that in a big league baseball game that can actually happen."
Scherzer (2-1) got an inning-ending double play to work around his only serious trouble in the fourth, when the Braves put runners at first and third with one out. The 2016 National League Cy Young Award winner allowed only one other runner as far as second base, finishing with seven strikeouts.
Mike Foltynewicz (0-2) ended up on the short end of the pitching duel. He went seven innings, allowing five hits and a pair of runs.
Sparked by the debut of their new suburban stadium, the Braves swept the San Diego Padres in a four-game series and climbed to .500 after a 1-6 start.
But Washington has dominated its division rival over the past two-plus seasons, improving to 37-13 in its past 50 meetings with Atlanta.
The Nationals broke a scoreless tie in the fifth. Matt Wieters got it started with a double, went to third on a wild pitch and trotted home when Wilmer Difo slapped a single to right. Scherzer moved the runner along with a sacrifice bunt, setting up Adam Eaton's run-scoring hit to center.
Eaton has reached base in each of the 12 games he has started for his new team.
The Nationals added an insurance run in the eighth on doubles by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman.
Treinen had another grim outing and might be on the verge of losing the closer's job.
The hard-throwing right-hander has given up runs in four of his eight appearances. He has three saves, but his ERA climbed to 7.11.
"We've got to do something to shore up our closer situation," Baker said. "This ain't working. Just go back to the drawing board and see. Treinen has outstanding stuff, but you hate to see a guy like Scherzer ... go by the wayside in five minutes."
Braves OF Matt Kemp will test his right hamstring in a rehab game at Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday, pushing back his return to the active roster. ... Atlanta C Tyler Flowers (strained right hamstring) didn't start but came on in the ninth as a pinch hitter. He'll be limited to pinch-hitting duty again on Wednesday. ... Nationals SS Trea Turner (strained right hamstring) is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday, but he'll have a rehab stint in the minors.
Nationals: RHP Joe Ross will be called up from Triple-A Syracuse for his first big league start of the season. The 23-year-old made 19 starts for Washington a year ago, going 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (1-0) gets his second start of the homestand, looking to follow up a victory in the first game at SunTrust Park. He has a 0.95 ERA over his first three starts, allowing just two earned runs in 19 innings.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
WSH Wins 3-0
- Home Plate Umpire - CB Bucknor
- First Base Umpire - Manny Gonzalez
- Second Base Umpire - Fieldin Culbreth
- Third Base Umpire - Mark Carlson
2023 National League East Standings