Braves 5, Nationals 4

Freddie Freeman insists the NL East race is far from over.

The Atlanta Braves are 6 1/2 games out of the division lead with

16 games to play, but Freeman believes they still have a good

chance to catch the Washington Nationals.

”I mean have they won the division yet?” Freeman said. ”No,

they haven’t, so obviously we do.”

Pinch-runner Jeff Baker scored the go-ahead run in the eighth

inning when reliever Ryan Mattheus hit Andrelton Simmons’ uniform

with a bases-loaded pitch that helped Atlanta beat the Nationals

5-4 on Saturday.

Jason Heyward and Freeman homered for the Braves, who have won

the first two games in the series and nine of 13.

The Braves beat Washington 2-1 on Friday when Simmons scored on

a throwing error in the ninth inning.

Atlanta began the day with a seven-game lead over third-place

Los Angeles in the NL wild-card race, but Heyward said the team’s

focus is on passing the Nationals in the standings.

”I feel like the last two times we’ve played them we’ve done

better,” Heyward said. ”We’ve taken strides and just tried to

hang in there and keep battling.”

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel earned his 36th save in 39 ties

after striking out the side. After pinch-runner Eury Perez stole

second and made it to third on catcher J.P. Boscan’s throwing

error, Kimbrel struck out Stephen Lombardozzi and pinch-hitter

Tyler Moore to end it.

Eric O’Flaherty (3-0) faced the minimum in the eighth for

Atlanta, extending his scoreless innings streak to 19 1-3 innings,

a span of 22 games.

Mattheus (5-2) allowed one hit, one walk, two walks and no


With the game tied 4-4 in the eighth, David Ross led off the

eighth with a single off Mattheus and moved to second one out later

when Uggla walked. Baker pinch-ran for Ross before Chipper Jones

walked to load the bases.

Mattheus hit Simmons’ uniform to give Simmons an RBI when Baker

scored to make it 5-4.

”I just couldn’t fine the (strike) zone,” Mattheus said. ”I

just couldn’t throw strikes. That’s inexcusable. I didn’t give us a

chance to win that game.”

Nationals manager Davey Johnson was ejected for the first time

this season for arguing what appeared to be a blown call in the

sixth that led to Atlanta scoring two runs to make it 4-all.

Washington starting pitcher Edwin Jackson knocked down Martin

Prado’s liner, picked up the ball off the mound and threw to first

baseman Adam LaRoche.

First-base umpire Marvin Hudson ruled that Jackson’s throw

pulled LaRoche right foot off the bag, but television replays

showed that likely wasn’t the case and that Prado should’ve been

called out.

Johnson was upset that Hudson refused to ask another umpire for

help in making sure the call was correct.

”I’ve got old eyes and I could see it,” Johnson said. ”I

thought he overreacted. He wasn’t going to get any help. It was a

big run.”

Jackson was charged with a throwing error on the play, and

Heyward, the next batter, made it 4-all with his 27th homer, a

two-run shot.

Jackson gave up four hits and four runs – three earned – with

one walk and seven strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings.

LaRoche hit his 30th homer, a two-run shot off Tommy Hanson, to

make it 2-0 in the first.

The Nationals went up 4-0 in the second on two errors by the


After Jesus Flores walked with one out, Steve Lombardozzi

reached when Freeman fielded his grounder near first, juggled the

ball while considering a throw to second and was late to the

getting to the bag.

Jackson followed with a bunt single that Hanson fielded in front

of the mound. Hanson threw errantly to first and allowed both

runners to score.

In the bottom of the third, Dan Uggla made it 4-1 with an RBI


Freeman’s 20th homer, a solo shot in the fourth, cut the lead to

4-2. Freeman tripled in the third and singled in the sixth.

”(Washington) is the No. 1 team in the National League,”

Freeman said. ”We’re playing them tough. We’ve beaten them twice

now, so we’ve got a chance to sweep them tomorrow.”

Hanson, who is winless in his last six starts, allowed four hits

and four runs – two earned – with one walk and seven strikeouts in

five innings.

Jonny Venters pitched the next 1 2-3 innings for Atlanta. Peter

Moylan relieved him with pinch-runner Roger Bernadina at first.

Moylan gave up a single to Jayson Werth that advanced Bernadina to


Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez brought in Luis Avilan, who ended

the threat with one pitch when Freeman fielded Bryce Harper’s

grounder and threw to second for the forceout.

Tom Gorzelanny got the final two outs of the sixth for

Washington. Christian Garcia retired two batters in the seventh,

but had runners on first and third when Mike Gonzalez entered and

struck out Heyward.

”This team has had success against us over the past few years,

regardless of where they’ve been in the standings,” Heyward said.

”This year is no different.”

Notes: Jones entered as a pinch-hitter for 3B Juan Francisco in

the sixth and stayed in the game, going 0-for-1 with a walk. …

The official scoring was changed after the game regarding Jackson’s

bunt single in the second. The play was initially ruled a sacrifice

bunt. … The Braves activated RHP Ben Sheets from the 15-day

disabled list before the game. Sheets, 34, will pitch out of the

bullpen for the first time in his 10-year career. … Ross replaced

Brian McCann as the Atlanta catcher before the top of the third and

threw out Lombardozzi trying to steal second in the fourth. McCann

left with tendinitis in his right hamstring. … Nationals LHP Gio

Gonzalez will go for his 20th victory on Sunday. LHP Mike Minor

pitches for Atlanta. … The Braves won just their third series in

their last 14 with Washington.