ATLANTA — Ramiro Pena and B.J. Upton hit home runs, Paul Maholm won his third straight decision and the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 6-3 on Sunday to stretch their lead in the NL East.
The Braves won two of three from the Nationals and lead Washington by 6.5 games — the biggest advantage for any first-place team in the majors.
The Nationals (28-29) fell below .500 for the first time since they were 13-14 on April 30. The Braves are 7-3 against Washington this season.
Ian Desmond hit a homer for Washington in the sixth inning to cut Atlanta’s lead to 4-3. Freddie Freeman answered with a bases-loaded, two-run double in the bottom of the inning.
Paul Maholm (7-4) allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits in six innings. Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save.
Washington rookie Nathan Karns (0-1) gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits in 4 2-3 innings. Karns allowed two homers. He has given up four homers in his two starts.
Upton, who had the game-winning hit in the Braves’ 2-1 win over the Nationals in 10 innings on Saturday night, hit a second-inning homer off Karns to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.
The Braves led 2-0 before Karns recorded an out. Ryan Zimmerman’s 10th error on a wild throw to first allowed Andrelton Simmons to reach base. Pena hit Karns’ next pitch about five rows deep into the right-field seats for his third homer.
Washington tied the game with two runs in the second. Adam LaRoche doubled and moved to third on Ian Desmond’s bunt single. Tyler Moore’s single to left field drove in LaRoche. With two outs, Karns hit a grounder to first baseman Freddie Freeman. Maholm dropped Freeman’s toss to first base for an error as Desmond scored.
Karns was pulled after giving up a single to Justin Upton and a two-out walk to Evan Gattis in the fifth. Brian McCann’s single off Zack Duke drove in Upton for a 4-2 lead.
Desmond’s seventh homer cut the lead to 4-3 in the sixth before Freeman’s bases-loaded double off Duke in the bottom of the inning pushed the lead to three runs.
Freeman’s drive hit the yellow line on the top of the left-field wall. Three umpires left the field for a video review to confirm the on-field ruling the hit was a double.
Washington right-hander Erik Davis, recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday, pitched 1 2-3 perfect innings in his major league debut.
Follow WNEW on Twitter.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)