WASHINGTON -- After all of the injuries the Atlanta Braves overcame last year en route to yet another division title, manager Bobby Cox hasn't seemed too concerned about missing three starting infielders lately.
The subs showed why Sunday night.
Wilson Betemit hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, driving in two fellow fill-ins and lifting Atlanta to a 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.
"I just try to do the best I can, not try and do too much," Betemit said, "and look for the right pitch to hit."
That turned out to be a fastball that was high and down the middle from Gary Majewski (1-1), Washington's fourth pitcher.
"He's out there just throwing, he's not pitching," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "He thinks harder is better and it's not."
It was Majewski's third blown save in his past four appearances and was the latest example of Washington's bullpen woes -- a stark change from 2005, when Chad Cordero led the majors with 47 saves and the relief corps was the team's strong suit.
"They'll bounce back," second baseman Jose Vidro said.
The Nationals have converted only two of seven save chances so far, and the club is 2-6 in games decided by one or two runs. The absence of Luis Ayala, the main setup man a year ago who's out for the season after arm surgery, has been tough to overcome.
The Braves have been playing close games night in and night out, going 7-7 in one- or two-run outings.
Atlanta wasn't able to get anything going against starter Tony Armas Jr., who threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed only three singles. It was his second consecutive strong start and Armas looks as if he might be all the way back after offseason shoulder surgery.
"Just having fun out there," he said. "Not worrying about pain, anything."
Atlanta's John Thomson gave up one run on consecutive doubles by Nick Johnson and Jose Guillen in the first inning -- and that was it in front of an announced crowd of 21,569, the smallest at RFK Stadium since baseball returned to D.C.
Thomson "gave us exactly what we needed," Cox said.
The right-hander allowed seven hits and five walks in six innings, but he also received some help from the Nationals. While he was in, Washington left seven runners on, hit into two double plays, and Royce Clayton was caught stealing twice.
The Braves played again without three injured infielders: Chipper Jones (ankle, knee) at third, Edgar Renteria (rib cage) at short, and Marcus Giles (thumb) at second.
"This is the third year in a row we have had so many injuries," Cox said. "We have so many good, experienced guys that they make them feel right at home and they do well."
Replacements Pete Orr, Betemit and Martin Prado were 1-for-7 against Armas. But Prado, making his debut in the majors, led off the eighth with a triple off Majewski for his first big league hit. Pinch-hitter Matt Diaz followed with a fly to medium right, and Prado didn't test Guillen's arm.
After Orr worked a walk, Betemit drove his second homer of the season to right-center.
"A lot of times, the other teams think about Andruw (Jones) hurting them and they kind of relax a little bit, maybe not as focused on making their pitches," Thomson said. "That's when our young guys go get them."
Lance Cormier (1-1) threw a perfect seventh for Atlanta. Chris Reitsma allowed two singles in the eighth but induced pinch-hitter Daryle Ward to ground out to escape the jam. In the ninth, Reitsma left with runners on the corners and two outs. Mike Remlinger came on and forced Johnson to ground out to first for his first save since Sept. 22, 2004, for the Cubs.
Washington stranded 11 runners, including when Brian Schneider grounded into a double play with the bases loaded in the fourth.
"You want to be the man, you want to drive in runs for the team," Schneider said. "To make a long story short, I just didn't get the job done tonight."
In the fifth, Thomson caught Ryan Zimmerman looking at strike three with the bases full.
"We just didn't get the big hit tonight," Robinson said. "Just couldn't do it."
Robinson joked about having ESPN at RFK Stadium for a national telecast. "I know they're not here to see us," he said. "They're here to carry Atlanta, I know that. But they can't carry Atlanta without carrying us." ... Braves 3B Jones (knee, ankle) probably will come off the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, when he's eligible.