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Atlanta at Washington

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Atlanta (52-42) «010000012491
Washington (54-39)000000000060

Sheets pitches Braves to Game 1 win

CBSSports.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- Ben Sheets is giving the Atlanta Braves an unexpected lift in the pennant race.

Then again, it's not that surprising. The four-time All-Star has turned in stellar outings before.

Sheets pitched six shutout innings, Brian McCann and Chipper Jones homered and the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 4-0 on Saturday in the opening game of a day-night doubleheader.

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Outdueling Nationals starter Edwin Jackson (5-6), Sheets (2-0) extended his scoreless innings streak to 12 in his return after missing last season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. The victory pushed the Braves' winning streak to three and moved them within 1½ games of the NL East-leading Nationals.

"It's been a huge pickup for us," McCann said of adding Sheets to Braves rotation. "To come out here for his two starts and pitch the way he has. Hasn't given up a run, he's pounding the zone and the more you're around him the more you know why he's so successful. He's a competitor, he knows what he's doing."

The Nationals have lost three straight, including the series opener Friday night, blowing a 9-0 lead before falling 11-10 in 11 innings.

Washington removed Bryce Harper from the game after two innings with a left ankle bruise. The 19-year-old fouled a bunt off his left ankle. X-Rays were negative and the rookie outfielder is questionable for the second game.

"[Bryce] was down hitting, trying to swing with it, and Michael Morse and LaRoche saw him and said he can't even swing. So, that's why I took him out," Johnson said. "Just a bruise, he'll be fine. Whether or not he plays tonight, we'll have to see how he's walking."

McCann's solo homer in the second inning, his 16th of the season and seventh in his last 10 games, gave the Braves their first run. Atlanta added another in the eighth as Michael Bourn scored on a wild pitch by reliever Henry Rodriguez.

Jones, entering as a pinch-hitter in the ninth with a runner on, clobbered the first offering from Ryan Mattheus over the right field wall.

In his second start of the season and with light rain falling intermittently, Sheets threw 91 pitches, allowing five hits with six strikeouts and three walks.

"If you're asking me if I'm surprised I haven't given up a run, yeah," Sheets said. "I'm not surprised that I'm getting people out. I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think I could get anybody out."

The Nationals put runners on in five of the opening six innings. Three times, they had two men on base, but could not capitalize.

Sheets threw a fastball past Adam LaRoche, striking out the slugger with two on to end the first. With runners on the corners and one out in the third, he induced Michael Morse into a double-play grounder.

After allowing a single and one-out walk in the sixth, the 33-year-old nimbly recorded the final two outs, including another strikeout of LaRoche.

"I had a couple of chances to drive some guys in," said LaRoche, who denied any carryover factor from Friday's stunning loss. "[Morse] hits a ball on the screws into a double play. One of those nights, just didn't get enough going."

Washington finished 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, all against Sheets. Kris Medlen and Chad Durbin combined for three scoreless innings of relief.

Jackson struck out nine to match his season high while allowing five hits and two walks over seven innings. His one mistake, McCann's homer as the high drive landed over the right-center wall. The Braves catcher has homered in three straight games.

"Once I found it, I knew," McCann said of his recent power surge and 11-game hitting streak. "I haven't felt like this since 2008, really."

Harper's failed bunt attempt came in the bottom of the first inning. Limping and doubled over in pain for several moments, the first time All-Star completed the at-bat by striking out. Harper returned to center field in the second inning, but Roger Bernadina replaced him on defense for the top of the third with the Nationals trailing 1-0.

Bourn finished with two of the Braves' nine hits and had two stolen bases. He swiped third as the front end of a double steal in the eighth inning before scoring on the wild pitch.

Bernadina had two hits and threw out Paul Janish attempting to move from first to third on Bourn's one-out single in the fifth.

The opening game was a makeup for the June 1 rainout. Considering the Braves recent run, one might call the timing of the makeup fortuitous.

"Certainly last night's game you chalk up as a fluke because that doesn't happen very often," Jones said of the nine-run rally. "But to back it up with a solid performance today, now we get some momentum going. I can't think of a better day to have a doubleheader, as nice a roll as we're on."

Notes

  • Braves second baseman Dan Uggla finished 0 for 4, all on strikeouts, three coming against Jackson.. With two RBI, Jones has 1,600 for his career.
  • Nationals OF Steve Lombardozzi and Braves 1B Freddie Freeman had their hitting streaks end at 13 and 11 games, respectively.
  • The Braves recalled RHP Randall Delgado to start the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader against John Lannan, making his 2012 debut.
 
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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Ben Sheets goes six shutout innings with six strikeouts to help the Braves cut the Nats' NL East lead to 1 1/2 games. (Getty Images)
Ben Sheets goes six shutout innings with six strikeouts to help the Braves cut the Nats' NL East lead to 1 1/2 games. (Getty Images)

Players of the Game
Atlanta

C. Jones
AB 1
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 2
Atlanta

B. Sheets
IP 6.0
H 5
ER 0
BB 3
K 6
 
Atlanta Braves
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Michael Bourn, CF5120010 .305
Martin Prado, LF4020111 .308
Jason Heyward, RF3000212 .269
Freddie Freeman, 1B4000011 .276
Brian McCann, C2111200 .244
Dan Uggla, 2B4000043 .220
Juan Francisco, 3B4020011 .227
Paul Janish, SS4110012 .182
Ben Sheets, P2000001 .000
   a- Eric Hinske, PH1000001 .210
    Kris Medlen, P0000000 .200
   b- Chipper Jones, PH1112000 .313
    Chad Durbin, P0000000 .000
Totals34493510  
a-grounded out for Sheets in the 7th
b-homered for Medlen in the 9th
Batting
HR - Brian McCann (16, Jackson), Chipper Jones (9, Mattheus)
RBI - Brian McCann (51), Chipper Jones 2 (39)
SB - Michael Bourn 2 (28, 2nd base off Rodriguez/Flores, 3rd base off Rodriguez/Flores), Martin Prado (12, 2nd base off Rodriguez/Flores)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Janish-Uggla-Freeman, Janish-Freeman, Medlen-Freeman
E - Brian McCann (2, Throwing)
Atlanta Braves
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Ben Sheets (W,2-0) 6500360 0.00
Kris Medlen (H,7) 2100010 2.68
Chad Durbin 1000010 3.58
Pitches-Strikes - Ben Sheets 91-54, Kris Medlen 21-16, Chad Durbin 11-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ben Sheets 4-6, Kris Medlen 3-1, Chad Durbin 1-1
Batters Faced - Ben Sheets 24, Kris Medlen 6, Chad Durbin 3
Washington Nationals
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Stephen Lombardozzi, LF4000010 .273
Bryce Harper, CF1000010 .268
    Roger Bernadina, CF3020000 .264
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B3010111 .265
Michael Morse, RF3010101 .297
Adam LaRoche, 1B3000134 .255
Ian Desmond, SS4010003 .288
Danny Espinosa, 2B3010012 .243
Jesus Flores, C3000001 .227
Edwin Jackson, P2000011 .161
   a- Tyler Moore, PH1000000 .302
    Henry Rodriguez, P0000000 .000
    Ryan Mattheus, P0000000 .000
    Mike Gonzalez, P0000000 .000
Totals3006038  
a-grounded out for Jackson in the 7th
Batting
SB - Roger Bernadina (10, 3rd base off Sheets/McCann), Ian Desmond (15, 2nd base off Sheets/McCann)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Roger Bernadina 1
DP - LaRoche-Flores-Zimmerman
Washington Nationals
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Edwin Jackson (L,5-6) 7511291 3.73
Henry Rodriguez0111100 4.85
Ryan Mattheus 1.2322211 2.14
Mike Gonzalez 0.1000000 2.20
IBB - McCann by Ryan Mattheus
WP - Edwin Jackson (1), Henry Rodriguez (10)
Pitches-Strikes - Edwin Jackson 111-68, Henry Rodriguez 15-9, Ryan Mattheus 28-15, Mike Gonzalez 3-2
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Edwin Jackson 4-7, Ryan Mattheus 3-0, Mike Gonzalez 1-0
Batters Faced - Edwin Jackson 27, Henry Rodriguez 2, Ryan Mattheus 9, Mike Gonzalez 1
Game Information
Attendance - 28745
Game Time - 3:07
Temperature - 68
Umpires - Home - Brian O'Nora, First Base - David Rackley, Second Base - Alfonso Marquez, Third Base - Tom Hallion