Scherzer heads to Atlanta early (Nats fall 4-3 in 10)

Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer left the clubhouse around 1:30 p.m. to his catch plane to Atlanta ahead of Friday’s critical start against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park.

As for the club’s run of three games in three cities in three nights, manager Davey Martinez said that is what the schedule dictates and the team must play them in a short period of time because the season is running out of days. He just hopes the weather doesn’t get involved again.

martinez-big-smile.jpg“It’s been a grinding week, not just for us, but the Cubs as well,” Martinez said. “I’m just grateful we’re here and we’re going to get the game in. You know if we got here and it was raining that wouldn’t be no fun to sit around. Let’s just play the game and move on.

“The hardest is just staying engaged. We got in late, they got in late. We got a late start today. I told the boys, ‘Hey, sleep in as much as you can and let’s get ready to play’. They got to endure the same thing so just be out there, be ready to play.”

Today right-hander Joe Ross is looking to be able to put together a full start after having his first game back from Tommy John cut short due to the weather. Ross was impressive, hitting 96-97 mph in recording five outs on 24 pitches on September 7.

Martinez is looking for Ross to try to slow down his changeup a bit, closer to the minus-10 mph that is coveted by pitching coordinator’s everywhere.

“His changeup was a little hard,” Martinez said of the first outing last week. “But he threw the ball well the time he was out there. Hopefully he continues to do that today. I’m looking forward to watching him pitch for five or six innings, see what we got.”

Martinez would like to see the changeup “eight or nine miles slower than his fastball”.

But Martinez was pleasantly surprised by the velocity Ross was able to get on his fastball.

“Granted, his fastball was up to 97 mph which kind of struck me as unusual for him. Because when I’ve seen him in the past it’s been 94 mph, maybe tops 95 mph. But if he can throw his changeups around 86, 87 mph it makes that bit of difference.”

And that is an important note as well, because occasionally Tommy John rehabbing pitchers sometimes return and have the ability to throw even harder post-surgery. That could happen with Ross. It will be interesting to see if he can hit 96 or 97 mph today like he did Sept. 7.

Martinez finally gets the opportunity to place center fielder Victor Robles back at the top of order as he intended Sunday before the rain ended the day.

“I’m very excited to see him leadoff,” Martinez said. “He’s an exciting player. If he gets on base things happen. So, I’m looking forward to him going out there and playing.”

As for the club’s five-game win streak this past week, Martinez said it can be attributed to the club “playing good team baseball”.

“That’s what I really believe,” Martinez said. “There’s been a lot of chatter in the clubhouse, in the dugout during the games, not quitting. They don’t quit. They never quit. They haven’t all year. But it shows now they are really stringing together good at-bats every inning. I think that’s been the plus. Every inning seems to get longer and longer and they are just doing really well with that right now.”

The longest win streak of the season was six games, most recently May 25-30.

Update: Spencer Kieboom opened the scoring with a solo shot over the center field wall in the bottom of the third against Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery. It is his second homer in the last three games.

The Nats lead the Cubs 1-0 after three innings.

Update II: The Cubs rallied quickly in the top of the fourth. Kris Bryant singled to lead off the frame. With one-out, Javier Báez doubled into right field when the ball took a funny bounce. Bryant scored after the ball ricocheted off the wall near the stands. Victor Caratini followed with a run-scoring single.

Mid-fourth, the Cubs lead 2-1 over the Nats.

Update III: Adrian Sanchez and pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson singled to put runner on the corners with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Victor Robles brought Sanchez home with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Ross went five innings, allowing two runs in four hits with one hit batter, two walks and no strikeouts. He threw 74 pitches, 47 for strikes.

After five innings, the game is tied 2-2.

Update IV: Báez with a solo homer in the sixth off of reliever Jimmy Cordero.

Mid-sixth, the Cubs lead 3-2.

Update V: With two outs in the seventh against Carl Edwards, Jr., Robles walked and then stole second base. Trea Turner brought him home with a line drive double off the left field wall.

Mid-seventh, the game tied 3-3.

Update VI: With two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Pedro Strop, Turner struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch. Bryce Harper lined out to left field to end the inning. The game heads to extra innings.

After nine, the Nats and the Cubs are tied 3-3.

Update VII: In the top of the tenth with one-out against Doolittle, Bryant doubled to left center field. Daniel Murphy reached on an infield single. Baez singled on a bunt between Zimmerman and Difo to score Bryant. Contreras, facing Koda Glover, walked to load the bases. Strop grounded out to third base, which turned into a double play, 5-2-3.

Mid-tenth, the Cubs lead 4-3.

Update VIII: In the bottom of the tenth against Cubs reliever Randy Rosario, Anthony Rendon popped out to first base. Juan Soto grounded out to second base. Ryan Zimmerman struck out to end the game.

Final score: The Cubs 4, the Nats 3 in 10 innings. The Nats win streak ends at five games. They are 4-9 in extra-inning games.

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