Monday, June 23, 2014
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Nationals keep calm, beat Braves

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[June 23, 2014]  WASHINGTON -- Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson, after striking out on a checked swing, threw up his arms at first base umpire Tim Welke before he was ejected by home plate umpire Mark Carlson in the sixth inning.

Braves left fielder Justin Upton had some unpleasant things to say after he was ejected by Carlson after he fanned in the ninth.

The rivalry between the Braves and Washington Nationals got a little heated Sunday afternoon, as starting pitcher Tanner Roark took a shutout into the sixth inning and his bullpen got the last 11 outs without allowing a hit as the first-place Nationals beat the frustrated Braves 4-1 to salvage a split of the four-game series.

"You can never get mad at umpires," Roark said of not getting some calls on borderline pitches. "You get frustrated with yourself. We came out with a win and I am happy about that. It is a huge swing. It gives us a big (vote) of confidence in ourselves. We just have to keep it rolling" on Monday in Milwaukee.

Atlanta won the first two games of the series and Washington took the last two.

"If we would have lost the first two games and won the last two games [we would be] feeling pretty good," said Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez. "Our goal is to always win a series and we didn't do it."

Washington (39-35) extended its first-place lead in the National League East over the Braves (38-37). The win was just the third in 10 games against Atlanta this year. The Braves are 20-9 against Washington the past two seasons.

"That is a really good team," Washington left fielder Ryan Zimmerman said of the Braves. "It's a step in the right direction. To win the last two was big. They are a tough team."

Roark (7-4), who allowed just four hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings, gave up an RBI single to Upton in the sixth as the Braves pulled to within 3-1. "That was a grind-it-out at bat," Gonzalez said.

Roark was then replaced by Craig Stammen and the first batter he was faced was Johnson, who was ejected when he was called out on strikes on a check swing.

"It may be one of the toughest calls an umpire has to make," Gonzalez said of the checked swing by right-handed hitting Johnson. "I didn't see the bat go across the plate. That is me; I may have had the worst seat in the house (from the third base dugout). He is a competitive guy. He wants to drive in those runs."

A second-year major leaguer, Roark helped himself at the plate in the bottom of the fifth as he laid down a sacrifice that allowed catcher Sandy Leon to advance to second. Roark threw off his helmet after the bunt and nearly beat out the bunt when the throw from catcher Evan Gattis was high to first baseman Freddie Freeman.

"I didn't know where the ball went," said Roark, with a grin. "I got the job done."

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Washington center fielder Denard Span then followed with an RBI double to score Leon and make the score 3-0 against Atlanta starter and loser Ervin Santana (5-5), who gave up three runs and six hits with nine strikeouts in six innings.

"He gave us a good opportunity to win the game," Gonzalez said of Santana. "He did a pretty nice job. We had some people on base. We couldn't punch them through. I was encouraged with a lot of things Santana did today."

"He settled in nicely," Atlanta right fielder Jason Heyward said of Santana. "It was a shame we couldn't get him some runs. He threw really well for us. Their pitcher just threw better."

The Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by first baseman Adam LaRoche and a sacrifice fly by Zimmerman. Washington made the score 4-1 with two outs in the eighth when third baseman Anthony Rendon scored on a wild pitch by Luis Avilan.

Washington reliever Tyler Clippard pitched a perfect eighth and Rafael Soriano record his 17th save by fanning all three batters in the ninth. Gattis had his 20-game hitting streak come to end when he went 0-for-3 with a walk to end the longest active hitting streak in the majors.

NOTES: The Nationals are now 33-3 when scoring four runs or more and 6-32 when scoring three runs or less. ... Washington began Sunday with a team ERA of 3.07, the best mark in the National League. ... Washington begins a series at the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday and the starting pitchers will be LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-4, 4.85 ERA) of the Nationals against RHP Matt Garza (4-4, 4.02). ... The Braves begin a series on Tuesday at the Houston Astros and RHP Aaron Harang (5-6, 3.83) will face Houston RHP Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.95). ... Atlanta OF Jason Heyward reached base in 37 of his last 40 games through Saturday, with a batting average of .298 since May 9.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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