The Washington Nationals and Max Scherzer dropped the game, but the Atlanta Braves lost their slugging first baseman — at least for the time.
Scherzer gave up three runs on seven hits in five innings as the Braves defeated the Nationals, 5-0, Friday night at Nationals Park before a sellout crowd of 39,730.
Washington, whose plane from Minnesota landed at 5 a.m. Friday, was held to three hits. It was Anthony Rendon bobblehead night and many fans expressed their frustration that the Nationals have not signed the pending free agent to a contract extension and supported his MVP chances.
The Braves (91-58) now lead the Nationals (82-64) by 9½ games in the National League East. Washington is 7-10 against the Braves this year.
Braves star first sacker Freddie Freeman, with 38 homers and 117 RBI, left the game in the fourth inning with right elbow soreness, according to reports. He was replaced by Charlie Culberson, who has also torched Washington pitchers in his career.
Scherzer (10-6), who was on the injured list twice this summer, made just his fourth start at Nationals Park since the All-Star break.
He walked two and fanned six and was lifted for pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson in the last of the fifth.
The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the fourth as Matt Joyce drove in a run single and Dansby Swanson had an RBI double.
Scherzer could have walked Swanson with two outs and pitch to Mike Soroka, the Atlanta pitcher who entered the game batting .083.
Nick Markakis, just off the injured list, had a hard-hit sacrifice fly to center off Scherzer in the fifth for a 3-0 advantage. Ozzie Albies hit a solo homer in the sixth — his 23rd of the year — for a 4-0 bulge off Washington reliever Tanner Rainey in the seventh.
Rafael Ortega of the Braves had an RBI double in the eighth off Hunter Strickland to make it 5-0.
Atlanta’s Soroka (12-4), in his third start in Washington this year, gave up just one hit and no runs in six innings with three walks and four strikeouts.
Nationals first base coach Tim Bogar was ejected in the last of the eighth for arguing with crew chief Tim Timmons, who was umpiring at first base. Washington still leads the wild-card race over the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.
The three-game series continues Saturday at 4:05 p.m. as Austin Voth (1-1, 4.00) pitches for Washington against Mike Foltynewicz (6-5, 5.00) of the Braves.
Atlanta won the division title in 2018 while Washington captured the division crown in 2016-17.