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Nationals hand defeat to Smoltz, Braves with big second inning

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- John Smoltz blamed himself for his first loss in more than two months. He also acknowledged that Washington Nationals rookie Ryan Zimmerman played a big part.

Zimmerman homered and singled off Smoltz to raise his rookie-leading RBI total to 78, and also robbed the pitcher of a hit with a nice grab, leading Washington past the Atlanta Braves 9-6 Wednesday night.

"He single-handedly cost me some runs," said Smoltz, who was 6-0 with a 2.93 ERA over his previous 11 starts and hadn't lost since June 13 at Florida.

"I didn't have good touch, and I didn't have good command," Smoltz added. "It's probably the worst command I have had in a long time. No rhyme or reason -- just didn't have it."

Nationals manager Frank Robinson didn't recognize the man on the mound for the Braves.

"He wasn't his old self out there today," Robinson said. "But give our hitters a little credit -- they did do the job against him."

Eight members of Washington's starting nine reached base against Smoltz (10-6), and the Nationals batted around in a four-run second inning. Zimmerman drove in one run with an infield single in that inning -- sliding headfirst to avoid the tag when third baseman Chipper Jones' throw sailed off-target -- and he hit a two-run shot in the fourth for his 16th homer.

Those hits came after Zimmerman struck out in his first at-bat on Smoltz's tricky slider -- which made the rookie realize he had to lay off that pitch. And Zimmerman's slick defensive play on Smoltz's hot shot near the bag to end the Braves' three-run fourth came in the very same inning in which the third baseman made a throwing error on a grounder by Edgar Renteria.

Clearly, Zimmerman is quick to put his mistakes behind him.

"I don't think he lets it bother him. He doesn't hang his head," Robinson said. "He's very good at doing that, and that's what you have to do, because that one's gone -- can't do anything about that."

Zimmerman was in the middle of the action again in the sixth, when pinch-hitter Andruw Jones -- out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row because of left knee tendinitis -- drove in a run with a broken-bat single. The end of the bat and the ball both went right at Zimmerman, who was hit on the left forearm by the barrel.

"I don't think that'll ever happen again," said Zimmerman, now 6-for-13 (.462) with two homers and seven RBI against Smoltz.

"There was a lot of things going on -- pretty much anything you can expect in a game. I made an error. I made a diving play. I had a bat hit me. Struck out swinging at a ball. Home run. Sliding into first base."

Jones' hit drew Atlanta to 6-5, but Brian Schneider padded Washington's lead with a three-run shot off reliever Ken Ray in the seventh.

Chad Cordero pitched the ninth for his 22nd save.

Washington starter Billy Traber (3-1) earned his second consecutive victory despite allowing five runs -- four earned -- over 5 2/3 innings.

"He knows how to pitch," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's sneaky."

Traber won his previous start against another past NL Cy Young Award winner, Tom Glavine. This time, Smoltz seemed off right from the start, throwing 12 of his first 20 pitches for balls and walking two batters in the first inning.

Then came the big second, when Washington had six hits, a walk and one major baserunning gaffe -- the team's second in three games. Traber was on second when Felipe Lopez hit a ball off the wall in right. But Traber stopped at third, and Soriano got caught between second and third, while Lopez went to second. So Soriano was tagged out -- the old 9-4-5 play.

"I just went blank," Traber said. "I'm not very used to being on base."

Zimmerman followed with his sliding single, ending an 0-for-9 start to this series. By the end of the second, Smoltz was up to 60 pitches. He wound up staying in for 110 pitches over five innings, charged with six runs, nine hits and three walks.

"It was a frustrating night for me, because anytime we get five, I should win. We got six," Smoltz said. "I'll start a new streak."

Notes

  • Smoltz reached behind his back to grab Alex Escobar's comebacker and throw him out in the fifth.
  • Traber gave up six hits and one walk and hit two batters.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Brian Schneider smacks a three-run homer in the seventh, his first HR since July 9.  (AP)
Brian Schneider smacks a three-run homer in the seventh, his first HR since July 9. (AP)

Players of the Game
Washington

R. Zimmerman
AB 5
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 3
Atlanta

A. LaRoche
AB 2
R 2
H 2
HR 1
RBI 2
 

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Atlanta Braves
Marcus Giles, 2B5000003 .264
Edgar Renteria, SS5100001 .297
Chipper Jones, 3B5110011 .333
Jeff Francoeur, RF4221010 .258
Matt Diaz, LF3010001 .344
Adam LaRoche, 1B2222100 .272
Todd Pratt, C4001012 .195
Ryan Langerhans, CF4011032 .241
John Smoltz, P2000002 .149
   a- Andruw Jones, PH1011000 .275
    Tony Pena, PR0000000 .053
    Chad Paronto, P0000000 .000
    Ken Ray, P0000000 .000
    Macay McBride, P0000000 .000
    Tyler Yates, P0000000 .000
   b- Pete Orr, PH1010000 .220
Totals366961612 
a-singled for Smoltz in the 6th
b-singled for Yates in the 9th
Batting
2B - Jeff Francoeur (18, Traber), Matt Diaz (10, Traber)
HR - Adam LaRoche (24, Rauch)
RBI - Jeff Francoeur (82), Adam LaRoche 2 (66), Todd Pratt (17), Ryan Langerhans (22), Andruw Jones (101)
2-OUT RBI - Ryan Langerhans (8), Andruw Jones (39)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Jeff Francoeur 1
E - Chipper Jones (15, )
Atlanta Braves
John Smoltz (L,10-6) 5966361 3.62
Chad Paronto 1100000 2.45
Ken Ray 0.2233201 4.07
Macay McBride 0.1000000 4.03
Tyler Yates 1000110 4.60
Pitches-Strikes - John Smoltz 110-69, Chad Paronto 10-5, Ken Ray 22-11, Macay McBride 2-1, Tyler Yates 13-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - John Smoltz 5-3, Tyler Yates 3-0
Batters Faced - John Smoltz 26, Chad Paronto 3, Ken Ray 6, Macay McBride 1, Tyler Yates 5
Washington Nationals
Alfonso Soriano, LF5011011 .292
Felipe Lopez, SS4220101 .270
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B5123011 .287
Nick Johnson, 1B2111300 .290
Austin Kearns, RF5000027 .264
Alex Escobar, CF3110010 .324
    Saul Rivera, P0000000 .000
   a- Marlon Anderson, PH0100100 .269
    Jon Rauch, P0000000 .000
    Chad Cordero, P0000000 .000
Brian Schneider, C4223010 .239
Bernie Castro, 2B4021000 .300
Billy Traber, P1100111 .143
    Ryan Church, CF2010001 .250
Totals3591296712 
a-walked for Rivera in the 7th
Batting
2B - Brian Schneider (12, Smoltz)
HR - Ryan Zimmerman (16, Smoltz), Brian Schneider (4, Ray)
RBI - Alfonso Soriano (78), Ryan Zimmerman 3 (78), Nick Johnson (61), Brian Schneider 3 (40), Bernie Castro (2)
2-OUT RBI - Ryan Zimmerman (27), Nick Johnson (19), Brian Schneider 3 (18)
SB - Felipe Lopez (32, 2nd base off Smoltz/Pratt)
CS - Ryan Church (1, 2nd base by Paronto/Pratt)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Castro-F. Lopez-N. Johnson
E - Ryan Zimmerman (10, )
Washington Nationals
Billy Traber (W,3-1) 5.2654130 5.49
Saul Rivera (H,3) 1.1100010 4.01
Jon Rauch 1111021 3.31
Chad Cordero (S,22) 1100000 3.31
HBP - Diaz (by Billy Traber), LaRoche (by Billy Traber)
Pitches-Strikes - Billy Traber 60-37, Saul Rivera 11-9, Jon Rauch 10-7, Chad Cordero 16-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Billy Traber 9-5, Saul Rivera 1-2, Chad Cordero 3-0
Batters Faced - Billy Traber 26, Saul Rivera 5, Jon Rauch 4, Chad Cordero 4
Game Information
Attendance - 28094
Game Time - 2:50
Temperature - 84
Umpires - Home - Joe West, First Base - Ed Rapuano, Second Base - Tony Randazzo, Third Base - Jim Wolf