Acuna goes 4 for 5, Braves win 6th straight

ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuna Jr. went 4 for 5, had two RBIs and scored the tiebreaking run in the fourth inning to help the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves win their season-best sixth straight game with a 10-5 victory over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.

The Braves stayed 7½ games ahead of second-place Philadelphia. Any combination of nine Atlanta victories or Phillies’ losses will give the Braves their first division title since 2013.

Nationals ace Max Scherzer (17-7) endured his shortest outing of the year, four innings, while allowing six runs — a season high — and seven hits in 102 pitches.

Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, was no match for Acuna, one of baseball’s hottest hitters since the All-Star break.

The 20-year-old left fielder doubled off the wall in his first at-bat. He drove in two runs with a bloop single in the second. He tripled and scored the tiebreaking run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth. His single in the eighth gave Acuna a single-game high in hits.

Juan Soto, Washington’s 19-year-old left fielder, was impressive, too, homering in his fourth straight game and running a long way to catch a liner in the third. Soto scored the game’s first run in the second after beating a tag on Acuna’s throw to third. His 20th homer was a solo shot in the fourth.

The third-place Nationals had won four of five, but they dropped to 74-74 and can be eliminated from the division race by any combination of six Atlanta wins or Washington losses.

Kevin Gausman (10-10) gave up seven hits, two walks and four runs — three earned — in 5 2/3 innings. Gausman improved to 5-2 with a 2.61 ERA in eight starts since the Braves acquired him in a trade with Baltimore.

Scherzer, the majors’ career active leader in strikeouts, threw 31 pitches in the second, the worst coming on a two-out, eight-pitch walk to Gausman that loaded the bases. Acuna, the next batter, fought off a slider on his hands to drop the ball into shallow right field and make it 2-all.

Scherzer was sweating so profusely in the second that he had to replace his hat after Acuna’s hit. Sweat was rolling off the bill of his cap, affecting Scherzer’s vision, and he appeared to be struggling with his grip on the ball.

Atlanta led 4-2 in the third on Tyler Flowers’ two-run single. After Soto’s homer and Wilmer Difo’s RBI double forced a tie in the fourth, Acuna answered in the bottom half of the inning, tripling and scoring on Freeman’s sacrifice fly. Markakis’ RBI single put Atlanta up 6-4.

Charlie Culberson’s infield RBI single put the Braves up 7-4 in the sixth. Bryce Harper had an RBI groundout in the sixth for Washington. Markakis drove in two of the Braves’ three runs in the eighth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Atlanta 3B Johan Camargo missed his second straight game with left groin tightness. … The Braves returned RHP Arodys Vizcaino from a rehab assignment and reinstated him from the 60-day disabled list. Manager Brian Snitker said Vizcaino, the team’s closer during parts of each of the last three years, will not be used in high leverage situations immediately. Vizcaino missed 63 games with right shoulder inflammation.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (5-3, 3.57 ERA) will make his 19th start and first since Aug. 15 at St. Louis. He missed 21 games with a right wrist sprain and was sidelined 22 games earlier this year with a right hamstring strain. Hellickson is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in six career starts against Atlanta.

Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (9-7, 3.95 ERA) will make his 29th start. Atlanta has won three of his last five outings. Teheran has been hit hard by the Nationals this year, going 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA in two starts. He is 6-5 with a 4.12 ERA in 20 career starts against Washington.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/tag/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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