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Zimmermann, Desmond lead Nationals past Braves 2-0

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ATLANTA (AP)

Jordan Zimmermann turned in another dominant performance with two-hit ball over eight innings, Ian Desmond hit a two-run homer in the fourth and the Washington Nationals finally beat the Atlanta Braves, 2-0 Wednesday night.

The Braves had won five in a row this season over their NL East rival, and nine straight dating to last season.

Zimmermann (5-1) made sure that streak ended with what is starting to become a typical outing, snapping a three-game losing streak that had knocked the Nationals under .500.

Atlanta starter Paul Maholm (3-3) nearly matched Zimmermann. He allowed only three hits in eight innings, retiring the last 13 batters he faced.

But Desmond provided all the runs that Washington needed, homering to left-center on a 1-1 pitch in the fourth after Bryce Harper led off with a walk.

The only Atlanta hitters to reach against Zimmermann were Justin Upton, who singled with two outs in the first, and Maholm, who doubled into the right-field corner in the third.

Zimmermann struck out eight and retired 17 straight Atlanta hitters before giving way to Rafael Soriano, who worked a perfect ninth for his eighth save.

Harper had to leave the game in the middle of the sixth after appearing to tweak his left side on a check swing. He completed the at-bat, grounding out sharply to first, but headed to the clubhouse after talking with manager Davey Johnson and the training staff.

Roger Bernadina finished out the game in right field.

Zimmermann was coming off perhaps the best outing in the Nationals' nine-year history, a one-hitter for a 1-0 victory over the Reds. This one was nearly as good.

The first-place Braves couldn't do anything against the right-hander, who seemed primed for his second straight shutout until Johnson went to the bullpen, not wanting to put any more wear and tear on Zimmermann after he threw 107 pitches - 72 for strikes.

That was about the only thing that didn't go Zimmermann's way, costing him a shot at his third complete game in the last four starts.

The free-swinging Braves, close to a record pace for strikeouts, could only take solace from ending their streak of six consecutive games with at least 10 Ks. Soriano fanned one in the ninth, leaving the Braves with nine strikeouts on the night.

Notes: Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg experienced no pain during a bullpen session before the game and is expected to make his next scheduled start at Pittsburgh on Saturday. ... Washington OF Jayson Werth (bruised ankle, strained hamstring) missed his second straight start. ... Braves RHP Tim Hudson was still savoring a memorable game Tuesday night, when he homered and picked up his 200th career win. Hudson said his son, Kade, was really excited about the long ball. ''He says all I do is bunt,'' Hudson quipped. ... Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton and Juan Francisco each struck out twice for the Braves.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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