Big hit eludes Nats as Braves take Game 2

August 8th, 2018

WASHINGTON -- As they try to climb their way back into the playoff race, the Nationals see this four-game series with the Braves as a golden opportunity, a chance to make up ground against one of the teams directly in front of them in the National League East. The Nats had a chance to sweep Tuesday's doubleheader with their ace, Max Scherzer, ready to start the nightcap after the afternoon's 8-3 win.

The Nationals squandered that opportunity, however, falling to the Braves, 3-1, on Tuesday night and coming away with a split. With the game tied at 1 in the ninth, gave up a two-run triple to to put Atlanta ahead. Following the triple, a team trainer and manager Dave Martinez emerged from the dugout to check on Herrera, who developed tightness in his right shoulder and was removed from the game.

The loss snaps a three-game winning streak and keeps the Nationals 4 1/2 games behind the Braves for second place in the NL East and six back of the first-place Phillies.

"I don't think it's disappointing, just because of the effort everybody laid on the line," Scherzer said. "Everybody grinded, everybody played hard, great ABs, it just didn't work out for us tonight. Sometimes that happens, and that's sometimes baseball, but no one's hanging their head. We played hard today."

The Nats began the nightcap with confidence. They were gifted a 1-0 advantage in the first inning when Juan Soto swatted an opposite-field solo home run against left-hander .

Scherzer was ready to take over from there, pounding the strike zone and stalking around the mound with another dominant effort. He navigated his way out of a jam in the fourth inning with runners at the corners and nobody out. He struck out six and walked one in seven innings. Scherzer held Atlanta scoreless until the sixth inning, when Charlie Culberson connected on a game-tying solo homer.

"Two great teams tonight," Scherzer said. "This was a big league juego."

Each game for the Nationals has become even more important, as they aim to climb back into playoff contention. They missed a chance to inch closer Tuesday night.

"We got a game tomorrow against the team that's in front of us, so we'll worry about tomorrow," manager Dave Martinez said. "We win tomorrow, and then we go from there. That's the premise of our everyday. I tell them every day, 'Stay in the here and now, don't get ahead of ourselves.' That's what we've been doing. We've been playing really well."


The Nats had a chance to rally in the ninth inning, thanks to a double by , and after Michael A. Taylor was hit by a pitch, Matt Wieters stood to the plate as the go-ahead run. Wieters crushed a line drive, 106 mph off the bat, but right to third baseman , who caught it and doubled off Zimmerman to end the game.

"It's tough. You don't have too long to think about it because I hit it pretty hard, just right at him," Wieters said. "It's a funny game. [I] was able to get a blooper earlier in the game. I would've rather had that one than the blooper for sure."


Soto's solo home run in the first inning was his 14th this season, passing Mickey Mantle and moving into a tie for fifth place on the list for most home runs by a teenager in MLB history.


"I think he just misplayed the ball. Bobbled it a little bit and he scored. Ball was hit perfectly off the end of the bat. Nothing you can do about that." -- Martinez, on 's effort on Inciarte's triple


Tommy Milone (1-0, 3.00 ERA) will make his third start for the Nationals in place of the injured when Washington faces the Braves in the third of this four-game set on Wednesday. Milone has pitched well as a fill-in, and his last time out, he struck out nine in seven innings of one-run ball against the Mets. Mike Foltynewicz (8-7, 3.04) will be the opposing pitcher; first pitch is at 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park.