ATLANTA (AP) — Tuning up for the playoffs, the Washington Nationals reached all sorts of personal milestones.
For Max Scherzer, it was another 250-strikeout season. For Ryan Zimmerman, it was 100 RBI. For Trea Turner, it was Washington’s most stolen bases since the team moved from Montreal.
“Guys are having good years,” said manager Dusty Baker, whose team already clinched the NL East. “It’s especially nice when you’re getting wins while guys are putting up those numbers.”
The Nationals gained another victory Tuesday night, beating the Atlanta Braves 4-2 as Scherzer pitched seven innings, Zimmerman drove in a pair of runs and Turner stole two bases.
Scherzer (15-6) bounced back from his worst start of the season, also against the Braves last week, when he walked six and was roughed up for seven runs in an 8-2 loss. This time, the right-hander allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked one while throwing 83 of 112 pitches for strikes.
He has fanned 253 this season, only the fourth player in big league history to reach that figure in four straight seasons. The others are Ferguson Jenkins, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson — all Hall of Famers.
“You’ve got to be durable to accomplish that,” Scherzer said. “I’ve been able to get my 30-plus starts every year.”
Zimmerman had three hits and raised his RBI total to 101.
After three injury plagued years, he’s shown what he can do when he’s on the field.
“Obviously, 100 RBIs is kind of the benchmark,” Zimmerman said. “It’s nice to be able to stay healthy and be part of this lineup.”
Turner missed a good chunk of the season with a fractured right wrist. He still reached 42 stolen bases, topping Alfonso Soriano for the team’s high since arriving in Washington.
“Usually if a person is fast, he’s not the best baseball player,” Zimmerman said. “Trea is a baseball player who happens to be fast.”
The Washington bullpen, a huge liability early this season, continued to excel. Ryan Madson pitched around trouble in the eighth, and Sean Doolittle finished with a perfect ninth for his 22nd save, his 19th in as many chances since the Nationals acquired him from Oakland on July 16.
Rookie left-hander Luiz Gohara (1-2) surrendered four runs and 11 hits in 6⅓ innings.
“I like the fact he got us into the seventh inning,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “You can see when he’s out there, he’s pitching to win. I like everything about this kid.”
Washington took a 2-0 lead in the third, sparked by Matt Wieters’ leadoff double. Turner and Zimmerman had run-scoring singles..
Scherzer retired his first 11 hitters before Freddie Freeman reached on a bloop single to right in the fourth. Kurt Suzuki dumped a 3-2 pitch in front of left fielder Howie Kendrick to bring home Atlanta’s first run.
Zimmerman added another RBI single in the fifth and Washington finished off Gohara in the seventh. Rendon ripped a double just inside the third-base bag to drive in Turner.
ANOTHER LOSING SEASON
With the setback, the Braves (67-82) are assured of their fourth losing season in a row.
It is Atlanta’s longest such streak since seven consecutive seasons finishing under .500 from 1984-90.
That was followed by a record streak of 14 straight division titles.
Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy was scratched shortly before the first pitch because of hamstring tightness and replaced by Wilmer Difo. Baker said it was nothing serious and he expects Murphy to be back in the lineup Wednesday night. “We need him in there to be sharp and stay sharp,” the manager said.
Braves: CF Ender Inciarte left after the fourth inning with a sore left thumb. It’s been a lingering problem for the speedy outfielder, who was listed as day to day. Lane Adams moved from left field to center after Inciarte departed.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (14-7) gets the nod in the second game of the series. He is 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in three starts against Atlanta this season, which includes his most recent appearance last week in Washington when he surrendered seven hits and five runs in five innings of an 8-0 loss.
Braves: RHP Lucas Sims (2-5) will fill in for Mike Foltynewicz, who won’t make his scheduled start after lacerating his right middle finger in his last appearance. Sims has made his last four relief appearances since starting the first seven games of his big league career.
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