Falling to 0-6 for the first time in nearly 30 years, the Atlanta Braves lost 6-4 to the Washington Nationals, who used Wilson Ramos’ four singles and two RBIs to help cover up a shaky start by Max Scherzer on Monday night.
Scherzer (1-0), pitching on a full week’s rest, won despite allowing two-run doubles to A.J. Pierzynski and Nick Markakis in the first two innings. The righty wound up going six innings and didn’t let Atlanta score again in front of a sparse crowd announced as 18,119.
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.
Daniel Murphy hit a two-run shot off 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.
Four Nationals relievers combined for three scoreless innings, including Jonathan Papelbon, who earned his fourth save in as many chances.
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.
The Braves, who led Washington 2-0 and 4-3, are off to their worst start since dropping their first 10 games in 1988.
Only three major league clubs have reached the postseason after starting 0-6, according to STATS LLC: Pittsburgh (1974), Cincinnati (1995) and Tampa Bay (2011).
The Nationals, meanwhile, are off to a 4-1 start under new manager Dusty Baker.
They won this time without any hits from reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper. He went 0 for 3 with two walks and two stolen bases and struck out for the first time in 2016.
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.’”