ATLANTA -- The Washington Nationals are 11 games under .500 since the end of June, and know they could have been knocked out of the NL playoff race by now.
Nationals manager Frank Robinson says there is just one problem: "You look and look and we're still there."
Washington beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2 Tuesday night, earning a win Robinson said his team needed "very badly." The Nationals are 1½ games behind Philadelphia and Florida in the NL wild-card race.
"They're giving us a chance," Robinson said of the other wild-card contenders. "You know the old saying, don't let a guy hang around. If you have a chance to knock him out, knock him out. They've had a chance to knock us out."
The Nationals are still in the wild-card race despite losing records in July (9-18) and August (12-14).
Rookie Jason Bergmann earned his first major-league win, leading a Washington bullpen that pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings after starter John Patterson left early with stomach cramps.
"You've got to say thank you to the bullpen," said Jose Guillen, who was 2-for-3 with his 24th home run for Washington.
Bergmann (1-0) pitched two shutout innings in his second major-league appearance. He also scored the tying run in the fifth.
Hector Carrasco also pitched two shutout innings and Gary Majewski gave up two hits but no runs in 1 1/3 innings. Chad Cordero worked the ninth for his 42nd save in 46 opportunities.
The win moved Washington back above .500 in one-run games -- a season-long gauge of the team's success.
The Nationals are 27-26 in one-run games, but only 5-20 since leading the NL East by 5½ games on July 3.
"A lot of people in baseball are trying to figure out how we can win," Guillen said. "It's kind of tough. It drives people crazy. ... I don't know how we are still there. I think we should be in last place."
They are last in the division, but the Nationals are only six games behind the Braves.
"It's no big deal," said Atlanta's Andruw Jones, who was 0-for-4 but gave Washington a scare with a ninth-inning drive caught by Preston Wilson in front of the wall in center field. "It's one loss. We had opportunities, we didn't take advantage."
The Braves were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, leaving 13 runners on base.
"We left way too many guys on," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Patterson was pulled in the third after consecutive walks to Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones forced in a run. Johnny Estrada led off the inning with a double and scored on Marcus Giles' single.
Patterson had his shortest outing in 25 starts this season.
"I thought I was going to throw up on the field," Patterson said. "That's a bad feeling."
The Braves loaded the bases again in the fourth, but Bergmann ended the threat by striking out Giles.
Bergmann gave up three hits and two walks.
The Nationals trailed 2-0 before Guillen led off the fourth inning with his homer. One pitch after Jorge Sosa (9-3) threw a changeup over his head, sending him sprawling to the dirt, Guillen lined the homer into the left-field seats.
Sosa gave up nine hits and three runs in five innings.
The Nationals took the lead in the fifth. Bergmann led off with a single for his first career hit and scored with one out on Jose Vidro's double to the wall in center. Vidro was thrown out trying to stretch the hit to a triple. Nick Johnson followed with another double to center that would have easily driven in Vidro from second.
After Sosa issued an intentional walk to Guillen, Wilson added a run-scoring single to give Washington a 3-2 lead.