When Max Scherzer retired the Braves' first two batters of the evening, you couldn't help but wonder if the right-hander might be setting the tone for a dominant night on the mound. Those thoughts very quickly disappeared amid a flurry of hits by Atlanta off the veteran ace.
Scherzer was roughed up early by the Braves, surrendering two runs in the top of the first and then two more in the top of the second. His only saving grace: His Nationals teammates wore their hitting shoes tonight as well, turning this game into a potential slugfest.
Scherzer's night started off in fine form, with a three-pitch strikeout of Mallex Smith in the rookie's first career at-bat and then a quick fly ball off Nick Markakis' bat. But a two-out walk of Freddie Freeman came back to haunt Scherzer, who followed that up by allowing a single to Adonis Garcia and a two-run double to A.J. Pierzynski.
The Nationals picked up their pitcher with a three-run bottom of the first that included three stolen bases (including a double steal by Michael A. Taylor and Bryce Harper) and then a two-run homer by Daniel Murphy, whose torrid first week in D.C. continues.
Murphy has opened his Nats career 7-for-14 with four extra-base hits, seven RBIs, five walks and a 1.774 OPS that leads all big leaguers at the moment.
Given a 3-2 lead when he took the mound for the second inning, Scherzer gave it right back. Markakis' two-out double into the right field corner brought home two more runs and gave the Braves a 4-3 lead.
By the time Scherzer completed the inning, his pitch count was sitting at a hefty 46.
Update: Scherzer has settled down, but the Nats continue to have success against Bud Norris, giving them a 5-4 lead after five innings.
The Nationals tied the game in the bottom of the third via three singles and a Danny Espinosa sacrifice fly. They then took the lead in the bottom of the fifth thanks to Ryan Zimmerman's leadoff double, his hustle to take third on Jayson Werth's foul popup down the first base line and Wilson Ramos' RBI single that struck second base umpire Bob Davidson (and probably left any pitcher who has ever been flagged by "Balkin' Bob" smiling a little).
Zimmerman, who was given yesterday off to avoid excessive wear and tear on his foot and give Clint Robinson some at-bats, is 2-for-2 with a sac fly today, and is now hitting .429 (6-for-14) on the young season.
Scherzer, meanwhile, has pitched better since his early struggles, putting up three straight zeroes. His pitch count (88) remains high, though, after five innings.
Update II: Make it 6-4 Nats after seven innings, thanks to Ramos' fourth hit of the night. This one was a bloop single to right, bringing home Zimmerman with his third run scored of the night.
Scherzer made it through six innings, retiring 12 of the last 14 batters he faced and finishing with an even 100 pitches. Matt Belisle and Felipe Rivero then combined to pitch the seventh, with Rivero entering and recording two outs via one pitch.
Update III: That's your ballgame. Nats win 6-4. They got some very effective relief work from Belisle, Rivero and Treinen, who combined to record six outs and get the ball to Jonathan Papelbon, who notched his fourth save in as many tries.
Scherzer ends up with the win, his first of the season. Ramos had four hits. Zimmerman scored three runs. Murphy drove in two runs.
So the Nationals are 4-1 on the season, a perfect 3-0 against the Braves (who they have now beaten 11 straight times in D.C.)