ATLANTA -- Austin Kearns watched the ball soar along the right-field line and wondered if it would stay fair.
Trailing 4-2, Washington put up four runs on the Braves' bullpen. Chad Paronto failed to retire anyone, giving up three straight hits that included Ryan Zimmerman's run-scoring single. After Nick Johnson was tagged out in a rundown between third and home, Tyler Yates got the call to face Kearns.
Big mistake for the Braves. Kearns sent a 1-1 pitch screaming down the right-field line, the ball ricocheting off an outer wall just a few feet inside the foul pole for his 20th homer of the season.
"I got some good wood on it and it stayed fair," Kearns said. "It was close. It was fading a bit. I was just hoping it would drop before it went foul."
Washington outfielder Alfonso Soriano became the 40th player in major league history -- and the fastest ever -- to reach 200 homers and 200 steals for his career. He walked in the third and stole second to reach the milestone, then added his 201st steal in the eighth to go along with 203 career homers.
"I'm so proud of making it so quick," Soriano said. "I didn't expect to be a power hitter. It's not easy to get 200 stolen bases and 200 home runs."
Washington also got some bad news. Alex Escobar, who had three hits and a sacrifice fly, went out in the ninth inning with what is likely a season-ending shoulder injury. He jammed his right arm on a headfirst slide trying to get back to first and remained on the ground for several minutes, writhing in pain.
Escobar finally walked back to the dugout with the trainer having to hold up his arm. He will undergo an MRI on Saturday to determine if the dislocated shoulder needs surgery.
The Braves lost for the third time in four games during their current homestand, failing to take advantage of a pair of last-place teams. They lost a series to Pittsburgh at Turner Field for the first time since 1997, and they must win the next two against Washington to avoid dropping five of their last six home series.
Even if they pull things out over the weekend, it appears the Braves will be stuck at home during the playoffs after winning 14 straight division titles. Atlanta remained 19 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East, failed to make up any ground in the wild-card race after beginning the day seven games back and dropped to 26-34 at the Ted.
"We can't hold leads or we can't move runners over or we can't score runs in the crucial part of the game," Yates said. "Something's got to change soon."
Atlanta had a chance in the ninth when rookie Saul Rivera filled in for regular closer Chad Cordero, who couldn't pitch because of an ingrown toenail. Ryan Langerhans hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer and the Braves put two more runners aboard with one out.
But Rivera earned his first career save by striking out Chipper Jones on three pitches and getting Andruw Jones on a popup.
"I thought it would happen," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We had the runners out there and the right guys up, but we just couldn't get it done."
Ryan Wagner (1-2) picked up the win with two scoreless innings. Paronto (1-2) took the loss.
The Braves surged ahead with four runs in the second, all of them scoring with two outs.
Washington's Ramon Ortiz had a chance to get out of a bases-loaded jam after striking out fellow starter Chuck James. But Marcus Giles, back in the Atlanta lineup after not starting in six straight games because of a bruised left hand, cleared the bases with a double off the center-field wall. Edgar Renteria tacked on an RBI single.
Washington went up 1-0 in the top half of the second, taking advantage of a pair of walks. With two outs, Brian Schneider came through with an run-scoring single to center.
The Nationals closed to 4-2 in the fourth. Kearns walked, stole second and wound up scoring on Escobar's fly to center.
James lasted five innings, giving up only two runs but struggled with his control. He was lifted after throwing 105 pitches and walking five.
|Austin Kearns watches as his three-run homer puts the Nationals ahead of the Braves in the seventh. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Alfonso Soriano, LF||4||1||2||0||1||0||0||.291|
|Felipe Lopez, SS||4||0||2||1||0||2||1||.278|
|Ryan Zimmerman, 3B||4||1||1||1||1||1||2||.279|
|Nick Johnson, 1B||4||1||0||0||1||1||2||.288|
|Austin Kearns, RF||3||3||1||3||2||1||4||.261|
|Jose Vidro, 2B||5||0||1||0||0||0||1||.299|
|Alex Escobar, CF||3||0||3||1||1||0||0||.356|
|Ryan Church, PR-CF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.243|
|Brian Schneider, C||5||0||2||1||0||0||3||.244|
|Ramon Ortiz, P||2||0||0||0||0||2||2||.087|
|a- Henry Mateo, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.286|
|Ryan Wagner, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.333|
|b- Marlon Anderson, PH||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||.269|
|Jon Rauch, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|c- Daryle Ward, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||.309|
|Saul Rivera, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-grounded out for Ortiz in the 6th|
|b-walked for Wagner in the 8th|
|c-struck out for Rauch in the 9th|
|2B - Felipe Lopez (21, James)|
|HR - Austin Kearns (20, Yates)|
|SF - Felipe Lopez (3), Alex Escobar (4)|
|RBI - Felipe Lopez (41), Ryan Zimmerman (85), Austin Kearns 3 (68), Alex Escobar (18), Brian Schneider (43)|
|2-OUT RBI - Brian Schneider (19)|
|SB - Alfonso Soriano 2 (32, 2nd base off James/McCann, 2nd base off Franklin/McCann), Austin Kearns (9, 2nd base off James/McCann)|
|Team LOB - 11|
|DP - Zimmerman-Vidro-N. Johnson|
|Ryan Wagner (W,1-2)||2||1||0||0||0||3||0||5.84|
|Jon Rauch (H,14)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||3.22|
|Saul Rivera (S,1)||1||3||2||2||1||2||1||4.15|
|HBP - Diaz (by Ramon Ortiz)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Ramon Ortiz 90-57, Ryan Wagner 27-18, Jon Rauch 16-9, Saul Rivera 26-15|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ramon Ortiz 4-3, Ryan Wagner 2-1, Jon Rauch 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Ramon Ortiz 23, Ryan Wagner 7, Jon Rauch 3, Saul Rivera 7|
|Marcus Giles, 2B||4||1||1||3||1||1||0||.266|
|Edgar Renteria, SS||5||0||2||1||0||2||0||.300|
|Chipper Jones, 3B||4||0||1||0||1||2||2||.322|
|Andruw Jones, CF||4||0||0||0||1||2||5||.264|
|Brian McCann, C||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.336|
|Jeff Francoeur, RF||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.257|
|Adam LaRoche, 1B||4||1||1||0||0||3||0||.273|
|Matt Diaz, LF||2||2||2||0||1||0||0||.345|
|Chuck James, P||1||0||0||0||0||1||3||.000|
|Ken Ray, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Pete Orr, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.248|
|Chad Paronto, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Macay McBride, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Tyler Yates, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Wayne Franklin, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Kevin Barry, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Ryan Langerhans, PH||1||1||1||2||0||0||0||.242|
|a-grounded out for Ray in the 6th|
|b-homered for Barry in the 9th|
|2B - Marcus Giles (26, Ortiz)|
|HR - Ryan Langerhans (7, Rivera)|
|SH - Chuck James (3)|
|RBI - Marcus Giles 3 (48), Edgar Renteria (52), Ryan Langerhans 2 (24)|
|2-OUT RBI - Marcus Giles 3 (24), Edgar Renteria (18)|
|CS - Matt Diaz (5, 3rd base by Ortiz/Schneider)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|Outfield Assists - Andruw Jones 1|
|Ken Ray (H,7)||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||3.88|
|Chad Paronto (L,1-2)||0||3||3||3||0||0||0||3.25|
|Macay McBride (H,5)||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||3.99|
|Tyler Yates (BS,3)||0.1||2||1||1||0||0||1||4.54|
|IBB - Zimmerman by Wayne Franklin|
|Pitches-Strikes - Chuck James 105-57, Ken Ray 19-12, Chad Paronto 8-7, Macay McBride 4-3, Tyler Yates 7-5, Wayne Franklin 28-14, Kevin Barry 20-12|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chuck James 2-6, Ken Ray 2-1, Macay McBride 1-0, Tyler Yates 1-0, Wayne Franklin 1-1, Kevin Barry 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Chuck James 23, Ken Ray 4, Chad Paronto 3, Macay McBride 1, Tyler Yates 3, Wayne Franklin 6, Kevin Barry 5|
|Attendance - 33621|
|Game Time - 3:20|
|Temperature - 83|
|Umpires - Home - Mike Winters, First Base - Mike Muchlinski, Second Base - James Hoye, Third Base - Brian Runge|