WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The Washington Nationals led off Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves with back to back home runs from Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper. However, Tommy Hanson shook off the agonizing start to outpitch Gio Gonzalez, and the Braves beat the Nationals 3-2 to end a six-game skid against their NL East rivals.
Following the back-to-back blasts, Hanson blanked the Nationals over the next six innings. The right-hander allowed two runs, six hits and no walks in seven innings.
Eric O’Flaherty worked the eighth and Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth for his 16th save in 17 tries.
Gonzalez (7-2) was seeking to win his sixth straight start. In this one, however, the left-hander gave up three runs, seven hits and three walks in 4 2-3 innings. He also threw two wild pitches in his shortest and most ineffective outing since April 7.
Jason Heyward had two RBIs for the Braves, who had won only two of their previous 11 games. That slide included four losses to Washington by a combined 25-10 score.
The first-place Nationals have lost four of five.
Atlanta scored two runs in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead and chase Gonzalez. After an infield hit, two walks and two wild pitches loaded the bases with two outs, Heyward lined a two-run single on the last of Gonzalez’s 91 pitches.
Heyward contributed defensively in the bottom half. Harper hit a one-out liner off the right-field wall that Heyward grabbed and threw to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, whose relay to third baseman Martin Prado was just in time to ruin Harper’s bid for a triple.
After Hanson left, O’Flaherty walked the first two batters he faced in the eighth. He then got Ryan Zimmerman to hit into a double play and retired Adam LaRoche on a fly to deep left.
Hanson needed only five pitches to put Atlanta into a 2-0 hole. Lombardozzi got things started with his first big league homer on a 2-1 pitch, and Harper sent Hanson’s next offering into the right-field seats. After allowing only five home runs in his first 10 starts this season, Hanson has yielded four long balls in his last two outings.
Simmons got his first major league hit in the second inning, a two-out double that moved David Ross to third with two outs. But Hanson struck out to end the threat.
The Braves closed to 2-1 in the third when Prado singled and scored on Dan Uggla’s two-out double.
NOTES: The Nationals purchased the contract of LHP Mike Gonzalez from Triple-A Syracuse and optioned reliever Ryan Perry to the same minor league club. Gonzalez pitched a scoreless eighth. … The Nationals and Braves both have Monday off. … Washington fell to 16-9 at home. … Braves C Brian McCann, who bruised his left knee Saturday, did not play.
Listen here to what Davey Johnson, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman & Steve Lombardozzi had to say following the loss.
Davey Johnson Postgame Audio
Gio Gonzalez Postgame Audio
Ryan Zimmerman Postgame Audio
Steve Lombardozzi Postgame Audio
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