ATLANTA — Max Scherzer turned in another dominant performance, only to be overshadowed by a bizarre ending.
After Scherzer pitched two-hit ball over seven scoreless innings, the Nationals had to strike out Chase d’Arnaud with the bases loaded — twice, actually — to escape with a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
The Nationals snapped Atlanta’s five-game winning streak and handed the Braves their first loss at new SunTrust Park.
Coming on for the ninth with a 3-0 lead, Washington closer Blake Treinen managed to get only one out. He gave up two hits and walked two, including light-hitting Kurt Suzuki with the bases loaded to give the Braves a shot.
Shawn Kelley came in and retired Emilio Bonifacio on a fly to short right. D’Arnaud was Atlanta’s last hope, and it appeared the game was over when he flailed at a third strike.
The hitter ran toward the dugout, the Nationals celebrated, and the grounds crew came onto the field from behind the center-field wall — one pushing a wheelbarrow. Only one problem: plate umpire C.B. Bucknor ruled d’Arnaud foul-tipped the pitch, even though a replay showed he missed it by at least 6 inches.
“I guess I tipped it. I didn’t feel it. I thought the game was over,” d’Arnaud said. “The next thing I know, I’m back up there.”
The Nationals were livid over the call, which wasn’t subject to a video review.
Kelley made it a moot point by getting d’Arnaud to swing and miss again. This time, there was no doubt the game was over — though Washington’s Jayson Werth continued to gripe at Bucknor as the umpires left the field.
“But from where I was, it looked like he missed it a foot,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said. “It was just a mess. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Scherzer (2-1) got an inning-ending double play to work around his only serious trouble in the fourth, when the Braves put runners at first and third with one out. The 2016 NL Cy Young Award winner allowed only one other runner as far as second base, finishing with seven strikeouts.
Mike Foltynewicz (0-2) ended up on the short end of the pitching duel. He went seven innings, allowing five hits and a pair of runs.
Sparked by the debut of their new suburban stadium, the Braves swept San Diego in a four-game series and climbed to .500 after a 1-6 start. But Washington has dominated its division rival the last two-plus season, improving to 37-13 in their last 50 meetings.
The Nationals broke a scoreless tie in the fifth. Matt Wieters got it started with a double, went to third on a wild pitch and trotted home when Wilmer Difo slapped a single to right. Scherzer moved the runner along with a sacrifice bunt, setting up Adam Eaton’s run-scoring hit to center.
Eaton has reached base in each of the 12 games he’s started for his new team.
The Nationals added an insurance run in the eighth on doubles by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman.
Treinen had another grim outing and might be on the verge of losing the closer’s job.
The hard-throwing right-hander has given up runs in four of his eight appearances. He’s got three saves, but his ERA climbed to 7.11.
“We’ve got to do something to shore up our closer situation,” Baker said. “This ain’t working. Just go back to the drawing board and see. Treinen has outstanding stuff, but you hate to see a guy like Scherzer … go by the wayside in five minutes.”
C.B. Bucknor’s Disaster
Bucknor, frequently cited as the worst umpire in the league, had a bizarre night behind the plate. Prior to his blatant missed strike on the game’s final sequence, Bucknor missed a slew of calls at the plate throughout the game. Take the following two examples for reference:
Deadspin wrote up a lengthy criticism of Bucknor’s many missed calls in the game, with author Barry Petchesky calling it “one of those CB Bucknor kind of nights.”
Braves OF Matt Kemp will test his right hamstring in a rehab game at Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday, pushing back his return to the active roster. … Atlanta C Tyler Flowers (strained right hamstring) didn’t start but came on in the ninth as a pinch hitter. He’ll be limited to pinch-hitting duty again Wednesday. … Nationals SS Trea Turner (strained right hamstring) is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday, but he’ll have a rehab stint in the minors.
Nationals: RHP Joe Ross will be called up from Triple-A Syracuse for his first big league start of the season. The 23-year-old made 19 starts for Washington a year ago, going 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (1-0) gets his second start of the homestand, looking to follow up a victory in the first game at SunTrust Park. He has a 0.95 ERA over his first three starts, allowing just two earned runs in 19 innings.
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