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Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals lose 2-1 to Atlanta Braves on 9th-inning chopper


ATLANTA — Max Scherzer turned away in disgust as Cameron Maybin's chopper bounced over third base.

Scherzer had another terrific performance Thursday night, but the Washington Nationals lost 2-1 to the Atlanta Braves on Maybin's single in the ninth.

"The way you lose like that — an infield single with (Pedro) Ciriaco being able to beat it out and then a ball that chops right over the third base — what are you going to get mad about?" Scherzer said. "I thought I executed my pitches in those situations, they just got hit. Baseball's a funny game sometimes."

Ciriaco began the Atlanta ninth with an infield single, beating shortstop Danny Espinosa's throw to stop a string of 10 in a row retired by Scherzer. He advanced to second on Jace Peterson's sacrifice and scored on Maybin's hit.

NL East-leading Washington dropped to 9-3 against Atlanta this year.

Scherzer (9-6) allowed five hits and struck out nine in his third complete game in his last four starts. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 1.05 ERA during the dominant stretch, including a no-hitter June 20 against Pittsburgh.

Scherzer also hasn't issued a walk since beating Milwaukee on June 14.

"That's something I'm extremely proud of — no free passes over the past couple games," he said. "That just shows you I'm attacking the zone."

Jason Grilli (3-3) pitched a perfect ninth for the win, including a swinging strikeout of Bryce Harper.

The Braves grabbed the lead in the fifth when Juan Uribe doubled and scored on Andrelton Simmons' single. But the Nationals tied it in the seventh.

Harper led off with a double against David Aardsma, catching a break when Maybin ran hard and slid to his left before dropping the ball in center. Wilson Ramos followed with an RBI single.

PHOTO: Atlanta Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin can't handle a ball hit for a double by Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin can't handle a ball hit for a double by Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, July 2, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Scherzer retired his first seven batters before Eury Perez singled up the middle in the third.

"We were fortunate to get some guys in scoring position and get them in," Simmons said. "He was good. Had his slider working. His fastball beats you almost like every time just by a little bit, but we grinded our at-bats and got the big hits."

Atlanta starter Manny Banuelos, making his major league debut, allowed two hits and struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings before leaving with dehydration and cramping in his left fingers and left leg. The left-hander threw 48 of his 75 pitches for strikes.

Banuelos, acquired in the Jan. 1 trade that sent relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve to the New York Yankees, went 6-2 with a 2.29 ERA in 15 starts at Triple-A Gwinnett.

Banuelos was tough on the Nationals after Ramos singled to begin the second, retiring 13 straight before hitting Denard Span and Danny Espinosa with two outs in the sixth.

Washington manager Matt Williams was disappointed for Scherzer.

"We had some opportunities to execute tonight and didn't get it done, but he pitched very well for us," Williams said.


Nationals: Williams said 3B Anthony Rendon, on the disabled list since last Friday with a strained left quadriceps, is hitting in the cage, but not running yet. Rendon is not on the road trip. ... 1B Ryan Zimmerman, on the DL since June 11 with a left plantar fasciitis, is hitting and taking grounders, but only doing light running. ... RHP Aaron Barrett, out since June 12 with a strained biceps, threw 16 pitches in one inning Wednesday with Single-A Potomac. Williams said his fastball hit 96 mph and that the pitcher felt no added soreness Thursday.

Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman says he likely won't return from a wrist injury until after the All-Star break. The slugger still has severe tendon and ligament inflammation. He continues to feel significant pain following a platelet-rich plasma injection last week. Atlanta placed him on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 18, with a right wrist contusion. The Braves have scored just 28 runs in 13 games without Freeman.


Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (5-4) gets the ball in the opener of a three-game series against San Francisco on Friday night. Gonzalez is 2-2 with a 2.59 ERA in seven career starts against the Giants.

Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (5-4) starts for Atlanta on Friday night against Philadelphia. Teheran is 3-3 with a 2.92 ERA in seven career starts and one relief appearance against the Phillies.

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