WASHINGTON -- In just his second career start, Braves left-hander Luiz Gohara went toe-to-toe with Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, the favorite to win his second consecutive National League Cy Young Award. Then, Atlanta broke out for six runs in the seventh -- highlighted by a grand slam by Matt Kemp -- to cruise to an 8-2 victory Wednesday night at Nationals Park.
• Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
Gohara put together an impressive performance to keep the Nationals off-balance through six innings, holding them to two runs (one earned) while striking out six without issuing a walk. The rookie retired 11 batters in a row from the second inning through the fifth in his first win as a big leaguer.
• Gohara leaves nerves, walks behind
"It feels really good. It's kind of like emotional for the first one," Gohara said. "For the first year being here, it's really fun to have the first win in the big leagues."
"The kid gets locked in and really competes," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "And that's what I heard about him from the guys that played with him, the guys that have had him, been around him. They say once he gets out there, he's trying to beat you. That's legit stuff right there, too."
Kemp's slam off right-hander Brandon Kintzler put the Braves ahead comfortably on their way to securing a winning record at Nationals Park, which had been a house of horrors for them the past two years. Atlanta, which improved to 6-3 in Washington this year, went 1-19 here from 2015-16.
Scherzer was pitching well until the seventh, when he appeared to run out of steam. He walked three consecutive batters to open the inning and finished with six walks (one intentional) and seven runs allowed, both of which were season highs. Even though the Nationals have already wrapped up the National League East, they extended Scherzer to 116 pitches, a plan he and the team devised to help stretch out his arm in preparation for the postseason.
"That was the game plan before the night started," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I know it looked ugly. It looked ugly to you. It looked ugly to us and the fans and everybody else. But if you have a game plan, you want to stick with it as much and as long as you can."
• Scherzer stays in, sticks to plan
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nats extend Scherzer: Even though he had already thrown 97 pitches through six innings, Scherzer took the mound to begin the seventh with the game tied at 2. However, it quickly became apparent he did not have much left in the tank. After walking the bases loaded, the ace allowed a go-ahead two-run single by Dansby Swanson. Scherzer's night was done after he walked Freddie Freeman intentionally.
"For the first 100 pitches, I felt like I was executing pitches the way I wanted to tonight," Scherzer said. "Then after pitch 100, that's when the wheels fell off and I was searching for everything. Sometimes that happens. You can just learn from this.
"I don't think anything's broken. My arm feels fine. There's nothing wrong here. This is why I needed to pitch that deep into the game, so I can shake off some of that rust."
It was just the third time in his career that Scherzer walked six batters in a game, the last coming Sept. 25, 2013, when he pitched for the Tigers. His ERA on the year rose from 2.34 to 2.59.
Kemp's slam breaks it open: After Scherzer departed, Kemp put this game on ice on the first pitch he saw from Kintzler. The veteran outfielder launched a hanging slider 395 feet into left field with an exit velocity of 106 mph, according to Statcast™, to make it 8-2. The blast marked Kemp's seventh career grand slam, and his first since 2011.
"I'm just trying to get a deep fly ball or put something into play to get a run in from third base," Kemp said. "He left a slider up, put a good swing on it and hit it out."
"I've always said you learn more about yourself after pitch 100 than you do in the first 100. Well, this is the time to learn." -- Scherzer, on extending beyond 100 pitches
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Shortstop Trea Turner stole second base in the first inning to become just the second player in Nationals history with 40 steals in a season. He is just one behind Alfonso Soriano's team record of 41 steals in 2006. And Turner has accomplished this while playing in just 83 games.
"He was on pace to lead this league in stolen bases, and then he had an unforeseen broken wrist," Baker said. "We all know that Trea's a player and he's an impact player."
Braves: The Braves will wrap up their series in D.C. on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET as they send righty Mike Foltynewicz (10-12, 4.74 ERA) to the hill.
Nationals:Tanner Roark will take the mound as the Nats wrap up this three-game series with the Braves on Thursday night at Nationals Park. In two starts this month, Roark has given up four runs in 13 innings with 16 strikeouts.
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