WASHINGTON — Max Scherzer wasn’t about to leave his start Monday afternoon any earlier than necessary.
Scherzer pitched seven strong innings to earn his 16th victory of the season, and the well-traveled Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-4 in the opener of a three-game series.
“He’s full of determination,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “We were going to take him out after the sixth because they had some dangerous hitters coming up and they were starting to hit the ball pretty well and Scherzer said, ‘Hey, man, I want to go back out there,’ and he had a great short inning.”
Scherzer (16-7) scattered seven hits and yielded two runs to win his fourth consecutive start. He needed only eight pitches to navigate his final inning.
“I just said two words: ‘I’m good,'” Scherzer said. “You just know where you’re at physically. You know how the ball’s coming out of your hand. I just knew even at 98 pitches I was still strong. I knew I had 115 in the tank, so I knew I was good to go out there for the seventh.”
Washington maintained an 8 1/2-game lead in the NL East over the New York Mets, who won 5-0 at Cincinnati.
Trea Turner and Chris Heisey both homered during a five-run third inning for the Nationals, who won for the 12th time in 14 meetings against Atlanta this season.
“That one inning got away from us real quick,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. “It kind of happened before you knew it happened a little bit.”
Ryan Weber (1-1) lost in his first start of the season for Atlanta. Weber allowed five runs in three innings as the Braves had a six-game winning streak snapped.
Washington created problems for Weber the second time he went through the order. Turner smacked a two-run homer to left with an out in the third to give the Nationals the lead. Weber put the next two men on and, after a pop out, Heisey blasted his ninth home run to left to make it 5-1.
“I left one just middle-in, right in (Turner’s) wheelhouse and after that my ability to limit the damage was not that good,” Weber said. “I made another bad pitch to Heisey and then it was really out of hand.”
Turner, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, added an RBI single in the fourth.
Atlanta scored twice in the ninth off closer Mark Melancon to pull within 6-4, but the right-hander ended the threat by getting catcher Anthony Recker to fly out with a man on first.
The Nationals fielded a lineup that did not include OFs Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, 2B Daniel Murphy, C Wilson Ramos and 1B Ryan Zimmerman. Washington arrived home early Monday morning after a Sunday night loss at the New York Mets.
“Some of my guys are walking around like zombies, and that’s the reason why,” Baker said. “I’m not overlooking the Braves at all. I’m just trying to preserve and take care of my guys. Who I feel sorry for are the fans who came out today to see their favorite players play. I can’t help it. You have to blame the schedule-makers and the TV-makers for that.”
INCIARTE STREAK TO 16
Atlanta CF Ender Inciarte extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a pair of singles in five at-bats. He is 30 for 70 (.429) since Aug. 19 and owns the longest active hitting streak in the majors.
Braves: Snitker said he hopes RHP Matt Wisler (sore side) can return to the rotation next week. Atlanta skipped his turn Monday. “I’d like to get him back out there, obviously,” Snitker said. “I want him to finish the season.”
Nationals: RHP Joe Ross allowed one run and three hits in three innings during a rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse. Ross, on the DL since July 3 with right shoulder inflammation, struck out two and walked none. … IF Stephen Drew (vertigo-like symptoms) went 1 for 2 during a rehab appearance at Class A Potomac.
Braves: RHP Williams Perez (2-2, 4.62), who has not appeared in the majors since June 6 because of a rotator cuff strain, returns to the rotation and will face Washington for the first time this season. Snitker said Perez is unlikely to throw more than 100 pitches Tuesday.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (10-9, 4.14) looks for his first win against the Braves this season. He has a 2.31 ERA in two starts against Atlanta.