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Braves edge Nationals to end four-game skid

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Associated Press
4/29/2013 10:39:15 PM
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ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves, who began the night with the most home runs in the majors, showed they can win playing small ball.

Now Washington's Stephen Strasburg must show his right arm is completely healthy.

Andrelton Simmons hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, then made an eye-popping play to start the ninth as Atlanta beat the Nationals 3-2 on Monday night and ended their four-game losing streak.

"We battled and did the little things right," said Simmons, the second-year shortstop. "We got the bunt down. We got the sacrifice fly to get the run in."

Washington manager Davey Johnson said Strasburg, who was pulled after six innings, has "a little tightness" in his right forearm.

Johnson said Strasburg was seen by a doctor after the game.

"That was a tough one," said Johnson of the loss. "But the main thing I was a little concerned about was Strasburg."

Strasburg, who had lost a career-worst four-straight starts leading up to the game, said he'll be able to make his next scheduled start. He is 1-4 with a 3.13 ERA.

Strasburg appeared to struggle to get comfortable on the mound. Johnson also noticed, saying Strasburg "doesn't look right to me."

"He was shaking his elbow more frequently," Johnson said, adding Strasburg didn't complain "but he was irritable."

"I was really concerned," Johnson said. "Any other time, I might have let him continue. Hopefully, it's no more than a tired arm or something."

Strasburg gave up six hits, four walks and two runs in six innings, striking out eight.

Strasburg insisted he "felt good" but struggled with his control.

"I couldn't throw strikes early on," Strasburg said. "I was able to kind of battle through it and keep it close."

Atlanta beat the Nationals for the eighth straight time dating to last season. The Braves swept three games at Washington earlier this month.

Ian Desmond off the ninth with a slow grounder that Simmons charged. Simmons slipped as he fielded the ball and fell on his backside, but somehow fired a strike from the seat of his pants that first baseman Freddie Freeman caught by making a long stretch.

"That's the first time I've ever seen two guys do a split on the same play at the same time," Braves closer Craig Kimbrel said.

Desmond was called out on a close play, and disagreed with the decision. Johnson came out to argue with umpire Tim Timmons.

Simmons was able to laugh about his awkward but successful throw.

"I just lost my footing," Simmons said. "It was a little muddy. Fortunately, we've got Freddie helping out there. ... Sometimes you've got to improvise to get it done."

The Braves began the night with 36 homers, one ahead of the Yankees for the lead. Against the Nationals, Atlanta's only extra-base hit was a double by starting pitcher Julio Teheran.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Teheran, who allowed 10 hits and two runs in 5 1-3 innings, showed his growth by escaping jams as the Nationals left six runners on base.

"We're watching him grow up in front of our eyes," Gonzalez said.

Gerald Laird led off the Braves' seventh with a walk from Tyler Clippard (1-1). Laird moved up on pinch-hitter Tyler Pastonicky's sacrifice bunt and was held at third on Jordan Schafer's single.

Simmons' fly ball to right allowed Laird to slide safely headfirst across the plate.

Jordan Walden (1-0) struck out three in 1 2-3 hitless innings.

Eric O'Flaherty struck out two in a perfect eighth and Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his ninth save.

Strasburg's first pitch of the game sailed to the backstop. He walked Schafer, who stole second and scored on Justin Upton's soft single.

Freeman followed Upton's hit with a single to left field, but took a wide turn around first and was thrown out. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez argued the call with Timmons at first base, and replays indicated Freeman's hand was on the bag before he was tagged.

Former Braves star Chipper Jones visited his former teammate and hunting buddy Adam LaRoche, now the Nationals' first baseman, before the game. Jones, who has said he has possible interest in becoming a hitting coach, watched video with LaRoche of the slumping left-handed hitter's swing.

The video review with Jones must have helped as LaRoche led off the second inning with a single to snap his 0-for-26 drought. LaRoche's hit started a string of four straight singles, including run-scoring hits by Chad Tracy and Kurt Suzuki, to give Washington a 2-1 lead.

Freeman walked to lead off the fourth, and singles by Dan Uggla and Laird made it 2-all.

Washington's Jayson Werth crumpled to the ground after fouling a ball off his left foot in the eighth. He completed his at-bat -- a strikeout -- and was replaced in right field by Roger Bernadina in the bottom of the inning.

NOTES: Braves RF Jason Heyward sat at his clubhouse locker but clearly was far from full strength one week after having his appendix removed. Heyward said he hopes to return no later than the May 24-26 series at the Mets. He said his doctor's instructions include "No spinning, no twisting, no lifting the dog." ... Washington C Wilson Ramos was activated from the 15-day DL but did not play as Johnson said he wanted to be careful not to push the strained left hamstring. C Jhonatan Solano was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. ... Schafer stole two bases. ... The series continues Tuesday night when Braves RHP Tim Hudson goes for his 200th career win, facing Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez.

Andrelton Simmons (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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