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Atlanta at Washington

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Atlanta (68-45) «001010010380
Washington (54-58)100001000291

Upton HR helps Braves win season-high 11th straight

CBSSports.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- The calendar says it's August and, thanks to Justin Upton's tiebreaking homer Monday night, the Atlanta Braves are 13 games ahead of the Washington Nationals in the NL East.

"I thought," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, "that the division was going to be a lot closer."

Upton led off the eighth inning with his 20th homer, and Atlanta extended its winning streak to a season-high 11 games by beating fading Washington 3-2.

"You want to step on their necks, especially when we've got this big of a lead," said Freddie Freeman, who drove in Atlanta's first two runs with a pair of singles off Stephen Strasburg in the third and fifth. "We can expand it a little bit more against them. I think we set the tone tonight."

Reliever David Carpenter (3-0) earned the win by retiring all five batters he faced after Mike Minor went six-plus innings, giving up eight hits and three walks, yet allowing only two runs. With Braves closer Craig Kimbrel getting a night off after pitching in the previous three games, Jordan Walden earned his first save of the season, but not without some difficulty.

Walden gave up a leadoff single to Anthony Rendon, who went to second on Denard Span's sacrifice bunt -- although Nationals manager Davey Johnson wanted Span to try to bunt for a hit there. Rendon took third with one out on Walden's wild pitch, giving Washington a terrific opportunity to tie the score.

But clutch hitting was the Nationals' biggest problem on this night -- and all season, really -- and Scott Hairston popped out to the catcher in foul territory, before pinch-hitter Chad Tracy flied out to left.

All part of Washington's 1-for-10 performance with runners in scoring position.

"Came up with nada," Johnson said.

The Nationals again failed to provide much run support for Strasburg, who struck out nine in seven innings, allowing two runs and five hits. The last five times he's allowed two earned runs or fewer, Washington lost.

In every inning from the second through seventh, the Nationals put the leadoff batter on base, but had little to show for it.

The Braves, meanwhile, did a lot with a little. In the third, they followed two infield hits with Freeman's blooper on a 3-0 pitch.

"Lucky golf swing," Freeman called it.

In the fifth, Upton got a two-out single and came home on Freeman's single after stealing second, a recurring issue for Strasburg.

"He has the same pattern every time," Johnson lamented. "He's very quick to the plate, but he is locked in his ways."

Upton, who went 3 for 4, delivered his 20th homer on a 3-2 changeup from Tyler Clippard (6-2), who replaced Strasburg to begin the eighth.

"Not a good pitch," Clippard said.

Shaking his head, along with a plastic water bottle in his right hand, Clippard summed up where things stand for the Nationals at the moment, saying: "We've got to turn this thing around. If it's going to happen, it's got to happen soon. ... Two months left, and we're 13 games back. So we've got to get moving."

Washington led the majors with 98 wins in 2012. But Atlanta's 12-game cushion entering Monday was the largest margin through Aug. 4 in any division since 2005, when the Chicago White Sox led the AL Central by 14 games, according to STATS.

Notes

  • Nationals RF Jayson Werth originally was listed as hitting cleanup but was scratched from the starting lineup during batting practice because of a lingering groin injury. He pinch hit for Strasburg with a man on second in the seventh and struck out.
  • Werth was selected as NL Player of the Month for July, after hitting .367 with seven homers and 22 RBI. He led the league in RBI and on-base percentage (.450).
  • In Game 2 of the series Tuesday, LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-4, 3.57) pitches for Washington, while RHP Julio Teheran (8-5, 3.02) starts for Atlanta.
  • Gonzalez was cleared Monday by Major League Baseball after its investigation of players linked in media reports to a clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs. Gonzalez, third in NL Cy Young Award voting last year, said Monday he has "no lingering sense of animosity" over being connected to the case.
  • Atlanta 2B Dan Uggla made a nice diving grab of Ian Desmond's liner in the third.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
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Justin Upton, who give the Braves the lead in the eighth with a solo HR, celebrates Atlanta's longest win streak of the season. (USATSI)
Justin Upton, who give the Braves the lead in the eighth with a solo HR, celebrates Atlanta's longest win streak of the season. (USATSI)

Players of the Game
Atlanta

J. Upton
AB 4
R 2
H 3
HR 1
RBI 1
Washington

A. Rendon
AB 3
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 1
 
Atlanta Braves
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Jason Heyward, RF4110000 .235
Justin Upton, LF4231011 .265
Freddie Freeman, 1B4032011 .311
Brian McCann, C4000025 .281
Chris Johnson, 3B4000012 .342
Dan Uggla, 2B3000110 .192
B.J. Upton, CF3010121 .183
Andrelton Simmons, SS4000012 .245
Mike Minor, P3000000 .136
   a-Joe Terdoslavich, PH1000001 .286
Totals3438329  
a-grounded out for Avilan in the 9th
Batting
HR - Justin Upton (20, Clippard)
RBI - Justin Upton (57), Freddie Freeman 2 (75)
2-OUT RBI - Freddie Freeman (34)
SB - Justin Upton (7, 2nd base off Strasburg/Ramos)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Jason Heyward 1
DP - Simmons-Uggla-Freeman, Simmons-Uggla-Freeman-Uggla-Simmons-Freeman
Atlanta Braves
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Mike Minor 6822330 2.76
David Carpenter (W,3-0) 1.2000020 1.90
Luis Avilan (H,19) 0.1000000 1.18
Jordan Walden (S,1) 1100000 2.37
WP - Jordan Walden (3)
Pitches-Strikes - Mike Minor 98-55, David Carpenter 23-14, Luis Avilan 1-1, Jordan Walden 9-5
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mike Minor 7-5, David Carpenter 1-2, Jordan Walden 1-2
Batters Faced - Mike Minor 26, David Carpenter 5, Luis Avilan 1, Jordan Walden 4
Washington Nationals
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Bryce Harper, CF-LF3000102 .267
Ian Desmond, SS3100113 .273
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B4110022 .275
Wilson Ramos, C4020001 .293
Adam LaRoche, 1B4021012 .234
Anthony Rendon, 2B3021001 .265
Stephen Lombardozzi, LF3000003 .249
Scott Hairston, RF3020101 .175
Stephen Strasburg, P1000001 .143
   a-Jayson Werth, PH1000011 .316
   b-Chad Tracy, PH1000001 .178
Totals3029235  
a-struck out for Strasburg in the 7th
b-flied out for Mattheus in the 9th
Batting
2B - Adam LaRoche (14, Minor), Scott Hairston 2 (4, Minor)
SF - Anthony Rendon (2)
SH - Denard Span (3), Stephen Strasburg (6)
RBI - Adam LaRoche (49), Anthony Rendon (18)
2-OUT RBI - Adam LaRoche (13)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Clippard-Desmond-LaRoche
E - Adam LaRoche (7, Misplayed grounder)
PB - Wilson Ramos (3)
Washington Nationals
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Stephen Strasburg 7522190 3.01
Tyler Clippard (L,6-2) 1211001 1.99
Ryan Mattheus 1100100 5.23
Pitches-Strikes - Stephen Strasburg 112-71, Tyler Clippard 19-14, Ryan Mattheus 19-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Stephen Strasburg 10-3, Tyler Clippard 1-1, Ryan Mattheus 2-0
Batters Faced - Stephen Strasburg 28, Tyler Clippard 4, Ryan Mattheus 4
Game Information
Attendance - 33002
Game Time - 2:55
Temperature - 77
Umpires - Home - Rob Drake, First Base - Joe West, Second Base - Sam Holbrook, Third Base - Adam Hamari