WASHINGTON — Daniel Murphy hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs, rookie Reynaldo Lopez pitched seven innings for his first major league win and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 7-6 on Saturday night.
Trea Turner had three hits, including a homer and one of Washington’s three triples. Ben Revere had the other two and drove in a run for the NL East leaders.
The Nationals played their fifth straight game without injured right fielder Bryce Harper and first without former closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was released before the game to make room on the roster for Lopez (1-1). The right-handed Lopez allowed one run and five hits.
Trailing 7-1 entering the eighth, Atlanta scored five runs over the final two innings against the bullpen, including four in the ninth. Mark Melancon came on after the Braves scored twice in the ninth and recorded the final three outs for his 33rd save.
Erick Aybar’s two-run double against Melancon pulled the Braves within one, but he was thrown out trying to reach third with zero outs. The Braves have lost three of four.
Rob Whalen (1-1) surrendered six runs and six hits over five innings in his third big league start.
Lopez, one of Washington’s top prospects, didn’t pitch five full innings in either of his previous big league starts, and this start opened with a thud. Freeman put Atlanta up 1-0 in the first with his 23rd home run, matching his career high. Lopez kept Atlanta scoreless from there while dancing out of the occasional trouble.
Washington countered in the bottom of the inning with Turner’s leadoff triple and Murphy’s towering drive down the right-field line for a 2-1 lead before the sellout crowd.
Turner homered during a two-run third inning and scored his third run in the fifth on Revere’s second triple.
Papelbon was 2-4 with a 4.37 ERA and 19 saves this season. He labored in July and only pitched 2 2/3 innings after his final blown save on July 26. The Nationals acquired Melancon a few days later from Pittsburgh.
The Braves recalled RHP Ryan Weber from Triple-A Gwinnett and optioned RHP Akeel Morris to Double-A Mississippi before the game.
Braves: Chris Withrow, on the DL since Aug. 8 with right elbow inflammation, had an MRI that showed no ligament damage. The right-hander will begin throwing Tuesday.
Nationals: Harper had an MRI for his lingering neck issue, general manager Mike Rizzo announced Saturday. “It was clean, so that’s good news,” Rizzo said, adding there are no plans to place Harper on the DL for now. The 2015 NL MVP last played Aug. 6.
Braves: RHP Tyrell Jenkins (2-2, 3.92 ERA) allowed only two runs in 18 innings over his last three starts.
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (12-6, 2.88 ERA) is 4-1 with a 1.84 ERA in career starts against Atlanta.
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