Bats pick up slack on night when Scherzer didn't have best stuff

On a night when Max Scherzer didn't have his best stuff, the Nationals knew right off the bat they'd need to score their share of runs to help out their surprisingly struggling ace. They managed to do just that, thanks to the continued early-season success of two key members of the heart of their lineup and a breakthrough performance from one of the members of the bottom of that lineup.

ramos-finished-swing-white-sidebar.jpgRyan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy reached base a collective five times against the Braves pitching staff, and Wilson Ramos went 4-for-4 with a pair of RBIs to lead the Nationals to a 6-4 victory and a 4-1 record to open the season.

This one didn't follow the pattern established in their three previous wins, in which the Nationals took the lead in the seventh inning or later, but it nonetheless featured a couple of clutch hits when they most needed them.

Murphy delivered the biggest blow: a two-run homer in the bottom of the first. The newly signed second baseman has brought his professional hitter reputation with him from New York, and is now 8-for-16 with five walks and seven RBIs in his first five games with the Nationals.

Scherzer put his team in an early (and unusual) 2-0 hole when he issued a two-out walk to Freddie Freeman in the top of the first and then watched as Adonis Garcia hit a single and A.J. Pierzysnki followed with a two-run double to the gap in right-center.

Scherzer's teammates bailed him out immediately, scoring three times in the bottom of the first with a rally that included three stolen bases and Murphy's homer into the bleachers in right-center.

But Scherzer didn't make the most of that gift, handing the lead right back to the Braves in the top of the second via three more hits, capped by Nick Markakis' two-out, two-run double.

His pitch count a whopping 46 after only two innings, Scherzer looked like he might not be long for this game. But the right-hander finally found his groove and retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced, making it through the sixth without surrendering another run and ending the night with an even pitch count of 100.

His teammates took care of the rest, scoring the tying and then go-ahead runs to leave the ace in line for the win despite his off-night.

Three singles and Danny Espinosa's sacrifice fly tied the game in the third. Zimmerman's leadoff double and Ramos' RBI single (which struck second base umpire Bob Davidson in the midsection) gave the Nationals the lead in the fifth.

Ramos added another run-scoring single in the seventh, blooping a base hit to shallow right to again bring home Zimmerman (who scored three times) and leave the Nats catcher 4-for-4 on the night.

Matt Belisle, Felipe Rivero and Blake Treinen combined to record the necessary six outs that bridged the gap between Scherzer and Jonathan Papelbon, who then pitched the ninth for his fourth save in as many tries.

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