Scherzer’s pinch single in 14th sparks Nats over Braves 5-3

ATLANTA (AP) — Nationals ace Max Scherzer has had plenty of great moments as a three-time Cy Young Award winner.

Now he’s delivered one with his bat, too.

Scherzer singled as a pinch hitter in the 14th inning and scored the tiebreaking run on Wilmer Difo’s triple, sparking the Washington Nationals to a 5-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.

“For me to get in a tie game at a point and time where we needed to win against a team that’s playing really good baseball, I got an opportunity,” he said. “Holy cow. I got a hit and scored a run. That’s too cool. I never thought in a million years it would happen.”

In his third big league pinch-hit appearance, Scherzer singled up the middle against Miguel Socolovich (0-1) and sped home from first base on Difo’s two-out hit to right-center field. Spencer Kieboom added an RBI single.

Scherzer touched off a dugout celebration after he scored.

“I just screamed,” Scherzer said. “I didn’t say any four-letter words. I’m usually pretty good for that — at least one, two, three or four of those — but I kept it pretty PG. That was a good outburst.”

Justin Miller (2-0) struck out five in three innings, facing the minimum, and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 14th save in 15 chances. Washington’s bullpen has allowed two earned runs in its last 33 innings.

Jesse Biddle, the fifth Atlanta reliever, struck out eight of his 13 batters, including Juan Soto with the bases loaded to end the 11th. He walked two in three innings.

“It was good to see,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “A lot of these guys work their way up the ladder. It’s games like that when you start giving him a little more high leverage situation.”

Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez faced the minimum through four innings, striking out five, before Nick Markakis’ leadoff single in the fifth. Tyler Flowers singled and Johan Camargo homered for a 3-2 lead, his third homer this week and fifth this season. Soto tied the score with a seventh-inning homer off Sam Freeman.

Michael Taylor hit a two-run homer in the seven off Brandon McCarthy, who allowed four hits in six innings. McCarthy struck out seven and retired 15 of his final 17 batters.

Scherzer started getting ready to hit in the ninth, putting on his spikes, hitting off a tee and taking batting practice indoors. He estimated it’s been “a couple of years” since he scored from first.

“I’m not going to hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Scherzer said. “I know that. I’ve got a high school swing. I know it, but hey, it’s good enough to get the ball in play and sure enough, something happens. With two outs, with the ball in the gap, you’ve got to score. Sure enough that’s what happened.”

FREEMAN

Braves 1B Freddie Freeman winced while on a first-inning strikeout. He flexed his left wrist a few times before the start of the second. Freeman missed seven weeks last year after breaking his left wrist when hit by a pitch. He was hit again April 19 against Philadelphia but was back in the lineup the next night.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: 1B Matt Adams left after fouling a ball off his right foot in the fourth. Adams, the primary backup to injured Ryan Zimmerman, was replaced by Mark Reynolds. … Manager Dave Martinez said 2B Daniel Murphy and OF Adam Eaton looked healthy in rehab games Friday at Double-A Harrisburg and will be reevaluated on Monday.

Braves: LF Ronald Acuna Jr. and RHP Mike Soroka aren’t likely to come off the DL until the week of June 12, after Atlanta returns from a six-game trip to San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Acuna, sidelined since last Sunday with a mild left anterior cruciate ligament sprain and bruises to his knee and back, is expected to play at least two rehab games next week. Soroka, out since May 14 with a right shoulder strain, will make two more rehab starts. He pitched 3 2/3 perfect innings Friday at Class A Rome.

UP NEXT

RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2-0, 3.20 ERA), slated to start for Washington on Sunday. had no decision and a 4.11 ERA in his first three starts but has a 1.30 ERA in his last five outings. Atlanta RHP Anibal Sanchez (1-0, 3.00 ERA) allowed four runs and five hits Tuesday against the New York Mets in his first start after he missed 37 games with a right hamstring strain.

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