By GEORGE HENRY
ATLANTA (AP) — Nationals ace Max Scherzer felt some relief after helping Washington team end a tough four-game series with a win.
“We’ve been playing pretty well,” he said. “We lost three games. To come here and take one and avoid the sweep, that feels good.”
Scherzer won for the first time in two months, Juan Soto homered and Washington beat the Atlanta Braves 9-4 Sunday to stop the NL East leaders’ nine-game winning streak, their longest in five years.
Yan Gomes homered twice, and Adam Eaton and Asdrúbal Cabrera each had three RBIs to help Washington end a four-game skid. The Nationals are nine games back of the Braves with three weeks left but opened a three-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for the top NL wild card.
“I think we’re putting ourselves in a good position,” Gomes said. “We came in here and wanted to gain ground on them. It didn’t happen. We’ve got to move on. We’ve got a whole lot of ballgames left. Obviously, our goal is to play past September.”
Scherzer (10-5) had not gotten a decision in four starts since beating Kansas City on July 6, a span that included nearly a month on the injured list because of a bad back.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner won his eighth straight decision, allowing one run and two hits in six innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. He stranded a pair of runners in scoring position in the fourth by striking out Tyler Flowers.
“My pitch count was up today,” Scherzer said. “Twenty, 40, 60, 80 in the first four innings. I was hitting the right spots, just two inches off. That’s a tough lineup. They’re swinging the bats well.”
Scherzer has a 1.71 ERA in 14 starts since a May 17 loss to the Chicago Cubs. His 2.56 season ERA is second in the NL to Hyun-Jin Ryu’s 2.45. Atlanta’s Mike Soroka is third at 2.67.
Soroka (11-4) gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings. Atlanta had won its previous 13 home games.
“It was kind of Jekyll and Hyde outing,” said Soroka, who has allowed five homers in his last two starts. “I made some really good pitches. I made a couple of bad ones and ended up paying for it.”
Washington, which outhit the Braves 17-7, went ahead when Eaton hit a two-run homer on Soroka’s fifth pitch. Gomes homered in the second and Matt Joyce went deep in the bottom half, but Soto made it 4-1 in the third with his 33rd homer, an opposite-field drive to left.
Cabrera, who had four hits, had a two-run double in the seventh as Washington opened an 8-1 lead.
Charlie Culberson homered in the Braves’ three-run ninth, stopping an 0-for-26 slide.
Nationals: C Kurt Suzuki still feels tingling in his arm, but MRI results on his right elbow revealed no signs of major damage. He has inflammation and is day to day.
OUT OF HERE
Turner and Washington manager Dave Martinez were ejected by plate umpire Mike Estabrook for arguing balls and strikes in the top of the fifth. Turner thought a low fastball was ball four and flipped his bat as he started to jog toward first. He became incensed when Estabrook called strike three, then turned to face the umpire.
With 101 RBIs, Soto is the sixth player to reach 100 before his 21st birthday and the first since Alex Rodriguez in 1996. The others are Hall of Famers Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb and Al Kaline.
Washington: RHP Anibal Sánchez (8-7, 4.11 ERA) starts Tuesday’s series opener at AL Central leader Minnesota.
Atlanta: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (5-5, 5.28 ERA) is to start Monday’s opener of a four-game series at Philadelphia. He pitched five scoreless innings against Toronto in his last outing and is 7-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 13 starts and one relief appearance against the Phillies.