Major Leagues: Braves 7, Nationals 4
WASHINGTON ó Dan Uggla and the Braves knocked around Stephen Strasburg a bit in a three-run first inning, and Atlanta helped its bid for a playoff berth by beating the Washington Nationals 7-4 Friday night.
Tim Hudson (16-10) pitched into the sixth for the Braves, who had lost eight of their previous 12 games. Entering Friday, their once-hefty lead in the NL wild-card standings had dwindled to a two-game edge over St. Louis.
Uggla finished with three hits and two RBIs, including a run-scoring single while Strasburg (0-1) labored at the outset of the game, which began 14 minutes late because of rain. The right-hander, coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery, allowed four hits in an inning for the first time in the majors, according to STATS LLC.
Strasburg needed 38 pitches ó spread across 18 minutes ó to get through the top of the first. He faced eight batters and gave up three runs, two earned.
After striking out leadoff hitter Michael Bourn swinging, Strasburg allowed consecutive singles to Martin Prado, Chipper Jones and Uggla, who made it 1-0. Strasburg then struck out Brian McCann swinging at a 97 mph fastball, before Freddie Freeman delivered an RBI single, grounding it just past the outstretched glove of second baseman Danny Espinosa.
Jack Wilson then hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. The ball bounced off Zimmerman’s right wrist, between his legs and trailed off into left field for a fielding error that scored Uggla, making it 3-0.
With runners at second and third, Jason Heyward drove a 95 mph pitch to the warning track in straightaway center to end the inning. Strasburg settled down from there, retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.
Collin Balester replaced Strasburg for the fifth and walked two batters before serving up Uggla’s RBI double. And that was it for Balester, who was charged with three runs, because the next reliever, Atahualpa Severino, was greeted by McCann’s two-run double.
Hudson, meanwhile, did what he nearly always does against the Nationals: win. He’s 14-3 against them. The righty gave up a bunch of hits, nine in all, but limited the scoring to three runs in 5 2-3 innings.
In the sixth, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and a trainer came out to check on Hudson, but he stayed in long enough to yield four hits in that inning, including RBI singles from Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos.
Werth hit his 20th homer in the eighth off Jonny Venters, one of four relievers used by Atlanta. It was only the third homer off Venters in the 169 innings he’s pitched in the majors.
That made it 6-4, but the Braves tacked on an extra run in the ninth when the Nationals blew a rundown, left home plate uncovered, and let Bourn trot in to score on a fielder’s choice groundout by Jones that wound being scored 1-6-5-3-4.
Atlanta’s rookie closer, Craig Kimbrel, got the final three outs for his 46th save in 53 chances.
In all Friday, Strasburg allowed five singles, struck out three, walked none and left with Washington trailing 3-1 in his last home start of 2011. It was his fourth appearance this season and the 16th of his career.
NOTES: The Braves send RHP Brandon Beachy (7-2) to the mound to face Nationals RHP Chien-Ming Wang (3-3) on Saturday. The teams wrap up the three-game series Sunday, with LHP Mike Minor (5-2) pitching for Atlanta against LHP Ross Detwiler (3-5). … Bourn stole two bases, raising his season total to 58. … Washington’s five-game winning streak ó including a four-game sweep at NL East champion Philadelphia ó ended. … The Nationals plan for Strasburg to pitch once more this season: in their last game, at the Florida Marlins on Wednesday. … Atlanta RHP Peter Moylan was diagnosed with a torn labrum and rotator cuff by a team doctor. He’ll get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews on Monday. … RHP Tommy Hanson (DL since Aug. 7; right shoulder) pitched two innings ó one fewer than scheduled ó in a rehab appearance in Florida. He felt pain in his right shoulder blade. … Braves INF Alex Gonzalez was not in the starting lineup Friday; he hasn’t played since leaving Tuesday’s game with a strained right calf muscle. … Fredi Gonzalez said RHP Kris Medlen, recovering from elbow surgery, could be activated this weekend. … RHP Jair Jurrjens (right knee) will throw 50 pitches in a rehab appearance Saturday.