<
>

Braves best Stephen Strasburg to avoid being swept by Nats

WASHINGTON -- Fredi Gonzalez cannot explain why the Braves have done so well against Stephen Strasburg. The Atlanta manager is just glad his team beat the Washington ace once again.

Aaron Harang outdueled Strasburg, Justin Upton drove in three runs and the Braves avoided a series sweep with a 6-2 win over the Nationals on Wednesday.

The Braves snapped a three-game losing streak as Harang (11-10) held the NL East leaders to one unearned run over seven innings. Upton's RBI single in the sixth broke a 1-all tie, and he added a two-run double off reliever Ryan Mattheus during a three-run seventh. B.J. Upton homered for Atlanta.

"This is a big win," Gonzalez said. "This is a win that you look forward to maybe (tacking) on three or four more in a row and get us back on top of the wild-card mix."

Strasburg (11-11) allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings. Bryce Harper homered for Washington, which had won three straight.

Washington won the opening two games of the series. Atlanta trails by eight games in the division.

"If we came in here and got swept it's (going to) leave a sour note in everybody's mouth," Harang said. "We can't focus on the division as much as the wild card right now."

Success against Atlanta has been historically difficult for Washington and Strasburg.

The Nationals dropped to 6-10 this season against the Braves, though they had won five of the previous seven games. They have not swept Atlanta in Washington since 2008.

Strasburg has not earned a win against the Braves since Aug. 21, 2012. In four starts this season against Atlanta, the righty is 0-2 with a 7.18 ERA.

"It's one of those things you can't explain," Gonzalez stated. "You really can't. ...Trying to explain it wouldn't sound very smart."

Strasburg entered with a 3-0 record in his previous five starts. The NL strikeout leader fanned eight, but lost for the first time since August 8.

"I felt great out there," Strasburg said. "I felt like I was hitting my spots, and just a couple hits, just out of our reach, and that's the ballgame."

Harang struggled recently, going 0-3 with a 7.98 ERA in his last three starts. That version didn't show Wednesday. He struck out nine and surrendered six hits while improving to 2-0 with an 0.90 ERA versus Washington this season.

The 4:07 p.m. start benefitted both starters. Shadows initially stretched across home plate. As the sun dipped the shadows receded and the Braves, "we were able to see the baseball," said Freddie Freeman, who had an RBI. Washington never did solve Harang.

"Today is pretty tough peeping out there. Shadows are tough," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "Breaking ball especially, when you have shadows, is difficult. And change of speed. But (Harang) can do that really well, regardless of shadow or not."

Kevin Frandsen had three singles for the Nationals.

LET'S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE

Harang credited re-watching previous starts along with recent bullpen sessions for his turnaround performance. "The ball wasn't coming out of my hand the way I wanted it to. I was really having to force things. ...I went out there and felt good today."

CALL OFF THE SEARCH PARTY

Making his first appearance since Sept. 5, Nationals reliever Rafael Soriano allowed two hits in one inning. Soriano has been removed from the closer's role after blowing saves chances in his previous two appearances.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: C Evan Gattis (strep throat) returned to the locker room after spending the previous two days at the team's hotel. Gonzalez kept him out of Wednesday's lineup and said Gattis will likely serve as Atlanta's designated hitter for the upcoming series in Texas.

Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon (illness) and SS Ian Desmond (back tightness) were kept out of the starting lineup. Desmond left Tuesday's game after five innings with back tightness. Williams said the shortstop could have played Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Braves: LHP Alex Wood (10-10, 2.90) starts Friday against the Rangers.

Nationals: Tanner Roark (12-10, 2.97) faces Bartolo Colon (13-11, 3.96) on Thursday as the Nationals begin a four-game series at the New York Mets.