WASHINGTON (AP) - On a day that reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper went 0 for 3 and struck out for the first time in 2016, and ace Max Scherzer allowed four runs in the first two innings, the Washington Nationals still were able to come away with a victory.
“We had other guys step up tonight,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Wilson Ramos went 4 for 4 with two RBIs and Daniel Murphy hit a two-run homer and a single, covering up Scherzer’s shaky start and helping the Nationals come back to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Monday night.
Washington is 4-1 and trailed in all four victories.
“Good at-bats up and down the lineup,” Murphy said. “As an offense, I feel like we’re able to put pressure on the pitcher continually.”
Scherzer (1-0), pitching on a full week’s rest, won despite allowing two-run doubles to A.J. Pierzynski and Nick Markakis early. The righty wound up going six innings and didn’t let Atlanta score again in front of a sparse crowd announced as 18,119.
“We picked him up,” Baker said. “He wasn’t really sharp.”
Ramos drove in the go-ahead run off Bud Norris (0-2) in the fifth, breaking a 4-all tie, and added insurance with an RBI single off Alexi Ogando in the seventh.
Murphy’s deep drive came against Norris in the first. He is hitting .471 with two homers and seven RBIs in the first season of a $37.5 million, three-year contract.
The Nationals got contributions from up and down the lineup. Ryan Zimmerman had two hits and scored three runs. Michael A. Taylor also had a pair of hits. And Harper played a role even without a hit: He walked twice and stole two bases.
Four Nationals relievers combined for three scoreless innings, including Jonathan Papelbon, who earned his fourth save.
The Braves, meanwhile, fell to 0-6 for the first time since 1988, when they lost their first 10 games of the season.
Mallex Smith had an eventful major league debut on the day he was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett and immediately put in Atlanta’s starting lineup as the center fielder and leadoff hitter.
The 22-year-old Smith, at Double-A for part of last season, struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat. He reached on an infield single in the second and came around to score. Then, in the fourth, he got thrown out by Ramos while trying to steal second base. On that play, Smith was cut above the left eye while sliding and left the game.
He wound up needing five stitches.
“It probably looked worse than what it was,” Smith said. “I still haven’t really felt too much pain. They numbed me up, got me some stitches. But I’m fine. I’ll play with this seven days a week.”
Harper already has three stolen bases this season; he finished 2015 with six. “He said this is what he wanted to do,” Baker said.
DUSTY ON CLOSERS
Baker spoke before the game about the “special mentality” it takes to be a successful closer in the majors, because “as soon as you blow one, or whatever it is, people forget about the other five or six that you saved.” Thinking back to his days as San Francisco’s manager, Baker said: “I had Rod Beck that saved 50-something in a row and he scared me to death (in) about 30 of ‘em. So you just learn that, ‘Hey, man, if he’s not nervous, then I’m not nervous.’”
Braves: RHP Dan Winkler went on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured right elbow. He was injured Sunday.
LHP Gio Gonzalez finally gets a chance to pitch Tuesday, making his first start of the season in Washington’s sixth game. It’s been more than two weeks since his last appearance in a game - a March 27 Grapefruit League exhibition.
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