The Nationals try to salvage a four-game split with the Braves as these division rivals square off again Sunday in the nation's capital.
After blowing a franchise-record nine-run lead in Friday's series-opening 11-10, 11-inning loss, Washington (54-39) failed to get anything going against Ben Sheets on Saturday afternoon during a 4-0 defeat in the opening game of a day-night doubleheader. The Nationals, though, broke though during the nightcap, winning 5-2 to increase their lead back to 2 1/2 games over the Braves (52-42).
"I think most of the guys in this locker room felt like it was a must-win tonight," closer Tyler Clippard said after earning his 16th save. "If they took three from us right away, it would have been a pretty big blow. To get this win tonight, John stepped up in a huge way for us, pitched great and our offense came through when we needed, too. It was a huge win."
Washington survived a scare when Harper fouled a bunt off his left ankle during Saturday's first game. The 19-year-old phenom didn't start Game 2, but he singled and scored as a pinch-hitter. His status for Sunday is uncertain.
"It feels all right," he said. "Once I get going, that's when it feels good. When I sit down, that's when it feels bad."
Harper's absence would surely make things easier on Jair Jurrjens (3-3, 6.20 ERA), who was knocked around during Tuesday's 9-0 loss to San Francisco. The right-hander allowed a career high-tying eight runs along with eight hits and three walks over 3 1-3 innings.
"I think his command wasn't as good as we've seen it before," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Braves' official website. "It was just one of those days, whether it happened to be the long days off between starts. He just wasn't the same and they took advantage."
Jurrjens has also been hit hard in each of his last four outings against the Nationals. He's gone 0-3 over that stretch while allowing 21 runs in as many innings with Washington hitters batting .348.
Ryan Zimmerman is 12 for 33 (.364) with a homer lifetime against Jurrjens. Ian Desmond , Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa have also taken him deep, going a combined 11 for 35 (.314) in their matchups.
Getting back on the road, though, could help Jurrjens regroup. He's recorded a 2.45 ERA in winning each of his last two outings away from home.
The Nationals counter with Ross Detwiler (4-3, 3.15), who's posted a 2.66 ERA over four starts since rejoining the rotation after spending nearly a month in the bullpen. The left-hander was superb his last time out, walking none and scattering five hits over seven scoreless innings Tuesday in a 5-4, 10-inning win over the New York Mets .
"I don't remember the last time I finished seven," he told the Nationals' official website after his longest outing of the season. "This is definitely what I want to do. I want to go deep into the game, and as deep as possible."
Detwiler hasn't been very sharp over two starts against the Braves this season, compiling a 5.73 ERA, but the Nationals have won both of those games. They have a 7-4 lead in the season series.
|July 21, 2012||Matt Diaz||15-Day DL||Right thumb contusion|
|July 14, 2012||Jack Wilson||15-Day DL||Dislocated right pinkie finger|
|July 09, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Broken right pinkie|
|July 09, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||15-Day DL||Broken right pinkie finger|
|July 08, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Broken right pinkie|
|July 05, 2012||Jonny Venters||15-Day DL||Left elbow impingement|
|July 18, 2012||Jhonatan Solano||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|July 01, 2012||Chien-Ming Wang||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
|June 30, 2012||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Left game - heat exhaustion|
|June 24, 2012||Xavier Nady||15-Day DL||Right wrist tendinitis|
|June 24, 2012||Xavier Nady||15-Day DL||Right wrist tendinitis|
|June 17, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Oblique soreness|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Nationals felt pretty good about themselves after earning a split of their four-game series with the Atlanta Braves .
Ryan Zimmerman homered twice and drove in three runs, and Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina each had three hits and two RBIs as the Nationals beat the Braves 9-2 Sunday in the finale of the series between the top two teams in the NL East.
After Washington blew a 9-0 lead Friday night in an 11-10 loss, the teams split a rainy Saturday doubleheader. The Nationals lead the division by 3 1/2 games - as they did when the series began. Atlanta had won 10 of its previous 13.
"They've been playing the best in the division. To win the first two and to get a split out of here, I think if I was them I'd feel deflated," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "Sometimes a split is like picking up ground."
Johnson blamed himself for losing Friday's game and pointed out the teams play six more times and he expected a tight race between the two teams.
"The rest of the division is going the other way," he said.
The Nationals' manager's day wasn't all pleasant. He announced that All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond would be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a tear in his oblique. Desmond has been trying to play through the injury, but an MRI on Sunday revealed the tear.
Johnson said that Desmond was hurting at the end of Saturday's doubleheader.
"There was no point (Saturday) where I felt I made it worse." Desmond said. "I was just ready for it to stop."
Zimmerman's two-run homer and Espinosa's double keyed a four-run first off Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens (3-4).
Zimmerman's solo shot and Espinosa's RBI double finished Jurrjens in the fourth. In his last two starts, Jurrjens has allowed 14 runs and 17 hits in six innings.
Michael Morse had three hits and scored three runs for the Nationals, who had 18 hits.
Ross Detwiler (5-3) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings to win his first game since May 3.
Zimmerman added a sixth-inning single. After receiving a cortisone shot on his right shoulder on June 24, Zimmerman is batting .392 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs.
"A split's fine," Zimmerman said. "Four-game series - to split is good. With as much baseball as we've played this weekend with the weather, all the things we had to deal with - the first two games the way they went for us to come back and win the next two games shows what kind of team this is."
Braves third baseman Chipper Jones , who was 5 for 13 in the four games, felt an opportunity was lost. During its hot streak, Atlanta had cutting the deficit from six games to 3 1/2.
"Our chance to win the series was (Saturday)," he said. "We didn't get it done. Today was not good from pitch one. But we came in here and held our own for the most part. Thought we played well for the most part. We're right back where we started. Now it's time to hopefully make up ground while we're playing in separate cities."
Rookie catcher Sandy Leon , playing in his fifth game, had a fifth-inning double that drove in two runs - his first two RBIs of the season.
Washington led 8-0 after five, but the Braves scored two runs in the sixth on a passed ball by Leon, and an infield out by Freddie Freeman .
"It's a little demoralizing when you're in a dogfight for the division and you're constantly fighting from behind," Jones said.
NOTES: Johnson said he expected the Nationals to recall OF Corey Brown from Triple-A Syracuse to take Desmond's place on the roster. ... Zimmerman had his 10th career multi-home run game - his first since Aug. 5, 2010. ... Jurrjens has an 11.29 ERA in his last four starts against the Nationals. ... Washington OF Jayson Werth (broken wrist) and INF Chad Tracy (groin) played well in their first rehab games Saturday, Johnson said. Both are about a week away from returning to the majors. ... Atlanta RHP Luis Avilan had his first major league hit - a fifth-inning single. ... The Nationals begin a three-game series in New York on Monday. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (7-6, 2.35) faces RHP Chris Young (2-4, 4.11). ... The Braves play three games in Miami starting Monday. LHP Mike Minor (5-6, 5.69) is scheduled against RHP Josh Johnson (5-7, 4.35).