Washington and its fading playoff hopes stumbled into town last night, with Max Scherzer on the mound against Kevin Gausman in what was a close to a ‘MUST WIN’ game as you can get shy of an actual elimination tilt. But, Mad Max ran into the April Braves and Atlanta ran off with a 10-5 drubbing, and in the process, may have clinched the Cy Young Award for Jacob DeGrom.

After an ‘uneventful’ 1st – if you define a lead off double by Ronald Acuna Jr. uneventful – it was scoreless going into the 2nd. Juan Soto led off with a walk, and went first to third on a Ryan Zimmerman double to left. That was a generous scoring, as it was more like a single and taking second on the throw to third. Soto was initially called out but replay overruled the call on the field. Matt Wieters drove in Soto with a grounder to second, and Wilmer Difo hit a sac fly to plate Zimmerman. 2-0 gNats.

Atlanta hopped off the mat in the bottom of the frame. Charlie Culberson took one for the team, and moved to third on the first of Ender Inciarte‘s doubles. Scherzer rallied though striking out Tyler Flowers and Dansby Swanson. Things looked good as Gausman headed to the plate, but Scherzer couldn’t put him away and walked the opposing pitcher. Acuna then flared one into right to tie it up. I hereby nominate the Guasman walk for the ‘Most Underrated Plate Appearance Of The Year’ Award, alongside Kurt Suzuki getting hit by a pitch in Philly and that time Ozzie Albies didn’t swing at the first pitch he saw.

Gausman worked a scoreless 3rd, pitching around a one out single to Trea Turner, who stole second, went to third on a grounder and was stranded when Anthony Rendon flew out deep to left. Atlanta took the lead in the bottom of the frame, when Nick Markakis worked a one out walk, and was doubled to third with two down by Inciarte. Flowers then put one in play that ticked off the glove of Rendon, deflected past a sliding Turner, and plated both Atlanta runners.

Unfortunately, Gausman gave it back in the top of the 4th. Soto hit the first pitch into the leftfield stands, and Difo doubled home Zimmerman. But Difo ran the gNats out of further opportunities when Ender gunned him down at third on Scherzer’s flyball. Well, gunned as in – Difo overslid the bag and Culberson kept the tag on him. At this point you could be forgiven for thinking that the Bravos had let Max off the hook, and Scherzer would settle down. But, it was not to be, as Atlanta plated two more in the bottom of the 4th, with RAJa tripling with one out, an Albies walk, a Freddie Freeman sac fly, with Ozzie ‘stealing’ second on Difo’s failure to cover the bag, and Neck’s run scoring single.

Gausman managed to pitch a 1-2-3 5th inning, and the gNatspos turned to their bullpen, as Austen Williams shut down Atlanta. In the 6th, Rendon led off with a single, but Soto grounded into a double play. But after Zimmerman walked, Snitker brought the hook. Jonny Venters came in and walked Wieters, but got Difo to ground out to escape the jam.

Atlanta added a run in the bottom of the frame, with a two out Ozzie double, a FabFiveFreddy intentional pass, and a Markakis unintentional walk. Folk Hero 2.0 managed an infield single to score Ozzie, making it 7-4 Atlanta.

Washington got the run back in the top of the 7th, with an Adam Eaton walk followed by a Turner double off Dan Winkler. (I swear to Og, every time I look up Trea F’ing Turner is standing on second in a Braves game. I’m pretty sure when I checked in on Wednesday afternoon on the Facebook game against San Fran, I saw Turner on second in PacBell Park in the bottom of the 4th.) Anyway, Atlanta brought in Jesse Biddle and traded the run for an out as Bryce Harper grounded to Swanson. After Rendon walked, Biddle struck out Soto to end the threat. Nice AB when you had the chance to turn the Rookie of the Year race around there, Juan.

Did I mention the April Braves? I did, didn’t I? Remember the three alarm April bullpen that somehow found its way out of trouble? Well, the 8th was a reminder of those days. Brad Brach sandwiched a hit by pitch to Wieters around a Zimmerman groundout and strikeout of Difo. But mark Reynolds just missed tying it up by doubling to center – I’m still not sure how Wieters didn’t score – and a walk to Eaton loaded the bases. But Turner flew out.

Atlanta added the Rietsma Room in the bottom of the 8th. Nick driving in Acuna and Albies, and Freddie scoring when strike three to TFlo got past Wieters for a wild pitch. A.J. Minter came on for an easy 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. Win, win, win. I can get used to this.

Magic number over Phillies down to nine, and six over the gNats. Let’s knock another one off tonight.