WASHINGTON -- For two innings Monday, Max Scherzer looked alarmingly hittable. The Nationals' righty and National League Cy Young Award contender recorded only one swing-and-miss over the first seven batters he faced, and the Braves took an early lead. Then Scherzer settled down, rediscovered his command and lifted the Nationals to a 6-4 win over the Braves, finishing with two runs allowed over seven innings.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he wanted to remove Scherzer after 99 pitches, but the ace talked his way into an extra inning.
"Scherz is full of determination," Baker said. "We were going to take him out after the sixth because they had some dangerous hitters coming up there, and they were starting to hit the ball well. And Scherz said, 'Hey man, no, I want to go back out there.'"
Scherzer completed the seventh inning on only six pitches and walked away with his 16th win of the season, tying Jake Arrieta for the NL lead, despite allowing seven hits and not having his typical strikeout stuff.
"I didn't give up the big hit," Scherzer said. "Even though I was giving up hits today, I never gave up the big hit."
The Nationals' lineup lacked its usual star power Monday -- Baker rested five starters following a late return from Sunday night's game in New York -- but roughed up Braves starter Ryan Weber anyway. A two-run home run from Trea Turner and three-run shot from Chris Heisey bounced Weber after three innings, in which he gave up five runs on six hits.
The Braves collected 11 hits and three walks on the day but struggled to string together hits off Scherzer. Nats closer Mark Melancon surrendered a pair of ninth-inning runs, but the rally fell short as Atlanta bid adieu to its six-game winning streak.
"Just that [third] inning got away from us real quick," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It kind of happened before you knew it happened. It's tough to get down that far against a guy like this. But [the Braves] just keep coming at you."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Turner gives the Nats lead: Turner got the Nationals' depleted lineup off to a strong start Monday. After doubling in the first inning, the rookie came to the plate in the third with the Nationals down, 1-0, and deposited a 1-2 sinker from Weber into the left-field seats for a two-run homer. The blast was Turner's sixth of the season, to go along with 10 doubles and six triples, in only 48 games. He added an RBI single the following inning to complete his eighth three-hit game of the season.
All three of Turner's hits Monday, including the homer, came in at-bats that began 0-2, and Turner said when he's behind in the count, he's really only looking to put the ball in play.
"I have an idea what they're going to throw me, but the two strikes, it's hard to guess a certain pitch because then you'll freeze yourself on something else," Turner said. "I try to see the ball and just put the bat on it. Sometimes I chase, but I'd rather swing at a close pitch than take it for strike three."
Early noise:Jace Peterson's second-inning RBI double gave the Braves a 1-0 lead with a pair of runners in scoring position and one out. Scherzer quieted that threat by striking out Gordon Beckham and getting Weber to ground out, and then he did not encounter another serious threat until Nick Markakis doubled and scored on Peterson's sixth-inning groundout. The Braves have totaled nine runs through the first two innings against Scherzer (four starts) this season and three runs after the start of the third inning.
"[Scherzer] commanded the strike zone well, and we just couldn't get to him," Peterson said. "He's a heck of a pitcher. Any time he's on the bump, you know it's going to be a battle and a grind. Hats off to him."
Bench bats come through: No Bryce Harper? No Daniel Murphy? No Wilson Ramos, Jayson Werth or Ryan Zimmerman? No problem. The Nationals' five-run rally in the third inning included contributions from three players who don't typically start: a double from Ben Revere, a single from Jose Lobaton and the three-run home run from Heisey. Overall on the day, Washington's fill-ins combined to go 5-for-18 with two walks, three runs scored and three RBIs.
"That's what they're here for," Baker said. "I've always said you can't win with just your regulars. You've got to get those other guys some opportunities to play. We feel very confident, especially for a short period of time, that those guys can do the job." More >
Spot start: The Braves did not plan to provide Weber a start until Matt Wisler strained his left oblique last week. Weber was fortunate that Turner's baserunning blunder negated what would have been a run in the first inning, but the right-hander fell apart in the third when he surrendered four hits, including the two home runs. The Braves are hopeful Wisler will be ready to return to the rotation during next weekend's series against the Mets.
"I left one middle, right in [Turner's wheelhouse]," Weber said. "Then after that, my ability to limit the damage was not that good. I made another bad pitch to Heisey, and then it was really out of hand." More >
"He's something else. He's a very, very special young player, and he's making the most of this opportunity and showing he belongs." Snitker, on Turner, who has hit .432 (16-for-37) with three doubles, one triple and three homers against the Braves this year
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Heisey has now homered in three straight starts and four of his past six. Five of his past six hits have been home runs.
Ender Inciarte has hit safely in 45 of 49 games since the All-Star break. His fifth-inning single off Scherzer extended his hitting streak to 16 games. He had a 19-game hitting streak from July 19-Aug. 9. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Braves:Williams Perez will take the mound when Atlanta resumes this three-game series on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Perez will be making his first start since June 6, when he exited an outing in San Diego with what what later diagnosed as a right rotator cuff strain.
Nationals: The Nationals will start Gio Gonzalez, who is 6-1 with a 3.02 ERA over his past 10 starts, on Tuesday. In his most recent outing, Wednesday against the Phillies, Gonzalez allowed only two hits and one run in six innings.