Nationals 4, Braves 1

The Atlanta Braves still lead an NL wild-card race they already

should have clinched.

Atlanta’s offense was shut down Saturday by Chien-Ming Wang, who

also drove in a run with his first career hit in a 4-1 victory.

With St. Louis rallying in the ninth inning to beat the Chicago

Cubs, the Braves’ lead over St. Louis was cut to two games with

four remaining.

”It’s another day knocked off the schedule,” said Freddie

Freeman, who homered for the Braves. ”Obviously we’re scoreboard

watching.”

Atlanta lost for the 16th time in its last 26 games.

”We’ve got to win ballgames,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez

said. ”It’s nice to watch the scoreboard and do all that kind of

stuff, but we’ve got to win our games that are in front of

us.”

Making his 11th start since returning from a two-year layoff

after shoulder surgery, Wang (4-3) allowed one run and four hits in

six innings and lowered his ERA to 4.04. He struck out four and

walked none.

”We couldn’t figure him out,” Freeman said.

Wang’s RBI single off Brandon Beachy (7-3) capped a three-run

fourth that put the Nationals ahead 4-0. He had been 0 for 32 at

the plate in his career.

Danny Espinosa also hit a two-run single in the inning for

Washington, which has won six of its last seven.

”When we beat the Braves, it’s a good feeling. We want to fight

for something,” Espinosa said. ”If we keep them out of the

playoffs, we’ll keep them out of the playoffs. No hard

feelings.”

Drew Storen pitched the ninth for his 41st save.

Wang never allowed more than one runner in an inning and also

got help from his defense. The best play came at the end of the

third inning, when centerfielder Rick Ankiel made a running catch

at the warning track with his back to the infield on a fly ball by

Michael Bourn.

Freeman’s leadoff homer in the fifth tied Espinosa for the lead

among NL rookies at 21.

Beachy struck out nine, but allowed four runs, five hits and

four walks in six innings.

”At times, I feel really good. I feel dominant,” he said.

”Everything I’m throwing up there goes where I want it to, and

then the next batter it’s gone. I just have to find that

consistency.”

Beachy is 0-1 with a 5.27 ERA in his last five starts.

”That’s the growing pains of a young pitcher,” Gonzalez said.

”Sometimes you sit around and forget this is his first year in the

major leagues, he’s pitching in a pennant race, trying to learn and

trying to get better.”

Atlanta put runners on the corners with one out in the eighth.

Bourn, who leads the majors with 58 stolen bases, was thrown out

attempting to steal second base by catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Martin

Prado then flied out.

”We just didn’t get anything going offensively,” Gonzalez

said. ”They did a nice job of keeping us off balance.”

NOTES: Atlanta activated RHP Kris Medlen from the 60-day DL.

Medlen had elbow ligament-replacement surgery in August last year.

OF Matt Young was designated for assignment. … RHP Tim Hudson,

who was taken to a hospital Friday night to be treated for a cramp,

was released after receiving fluids. … Nationals C Ivan Rodriguez

started for the first time since July 4. He went 1 for 2 with a

single and threw out two attempted basestealers. The 39-year-old

missed nearly two months with an oblique strain before returning in

early September. Washington manager Davey Johnson said Rodriguez

would also start the team’s final game Wednesday in Florida. …

Atlanta LHP Mike Minor (5-2) will start in the final game of the

three-game series against Nationals LHP Ross Detwiler (3-5).