WASHINGTON — It was part of the Washington Nationals’ plan to push Max Scherzer’s pitch count deeper than usual on Wednesday.
The Atlanta Braves’ plate discipline and timely hitting in the seventh inning wasn’t in the script.
Dansby Swanson smacked a bases-loaded, go-ahead two-run single off Scherzer, Matt Kemp hit a grand slam two batters later and Atlanta beat Washington 8-2.
Atlanta scored six runs in the seventh, and five were charged to Scherzer (14-6), who walked the bases loaded and remained in the game despite having thrown 114 pitches. Swanson then hit a 1-0 pitch to left to make it 4-2.
“We were just able to string good at-bats together,” Swanson said. “Good pitchers like that, it’s hard to be able to do that. It kind of gets magnified when you are able to do it.”
The Nationals intentionally walked Freddie Freeman before manager Dusty Baker went to the bullpen. Kemp then drilled Brandon Kintzler’s first offering to left for his seventh career grand slam and first since 2011.
Scherzer finished with 116 pitches, his most since July 7.
“With an extra day coming up, I thought it would be a good idea to try to get me into the 110, 115, 120 pitch count range tonight,” Scherzer said. “I thought that would benefit me going forward and then looking into the postseason, pitch with some extra fatigue.”
Scherzer, who had not lost since June 21 and had won six decisions in a row, allowed seven runs over six-plus innings — the most he has yielded since giving up seven to the Chicago Cubs on May 6, 2016. He walked six batters, his most in nearly five years.
Manager Dusty Baker said he was weighing the long-term benefits of stretching Scherzer out when he opted to leave him in. Washington clinched the NL East on Sunday, but has since dropped back-to-back games.
“That was the game plan before the night started,” 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, then you want to stick with it as much as and as long as you can.”
In his second start since his call-up from Triple-A Gwinnett, Atlanta rookie Luiz Gohara (1-1) needed only 71 pitches to complete six innings and secure his first major league victory. He allowed six hits and two runs while striking out six.
“The kid gets locked in and really competes,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s what I heard about him, from the guys that played with him, had him, been around him. They say once he gets out there, he’s trying to beat you. That’s legit stuff there, too.”
Braves: OF Ender Inciarte (jammed left thumb) was out of the lineup, but was available to pinch run and serve as a defensive replacement. Inciarte was hurt when he dove into first avoiding a tag on Tuesday. … Snitker said 1B/OF Matt Adams was available to pinch hit. Adams left Sunday’s game with right hamstring tightness and did not play Tuesday.
Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy was out of the lineup with a stiff neck. … Baker said OF Bryce Harper, out since Aug. 13 with a hyperextended left knee, has done some hitting off a tee, soft toss and light running. … OF Jayson Werth started in right after missing five games with a shoulder injury. Werth doubled in his first plate appearance and went 1 for 3.
With Inciarte out, rookie 2B Ozzie Albies batted leadoff. He walked twice and extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single in the fifth.
“That kid is way above his years,” Snitker said.
TURNER THE BURNER
Nationals SS Trea Turner stole his 40th base of the year in the first inning. He became only the second player since the franchise moved to Washington to reach that plateau, joining Alfonso Soriano (41 in 2006).
Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (10-12, 4.74 ERA), who is 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA against Washington this season, takes the mound Thursday as Atlanta seeks a three-game sweep.
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (12-9, 4.48) starts for Washington. He is 5-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 17 career games against Atlanta.
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