Game 45: Nationals 7, Braves 4


Welcome back, Wang.

On a night when Ross Detwiler struggled in his third consecutive start, Chien-Ming Wang’s first appearance of the year was just what the Nationals needed in a 7-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Wang (1-0) allowed three hits and one run over three innings of relief in his first major league action since Sept. 24, and Tyler Clippard solidified his role as temporary closer, earning his second save with with a scoreless ninth.  The Nationals’ offense, meanwhile, came alive against Atlanta ace Tim Hudson (3-2), who gave up seven runs on eight hits and two walks in 6 2-3 innings.

By winning the opener of the three-game set, the National League East-leading Nationals increased their lead over the Braves to two games and ensured they will come out of the weekend with no worse than a tie for the division lead.

Outside the Nats’ two big innings, Hudson, who struck out five, had his normal, nearly unhittable stuff. Ultimately, he was doomed by a four-run first. It started with a one-out single by Bryce Harper, followed by a double by Ryan ZimmermanIan Desmond drove them both in with a two-out single up the middle. Hudson then hit Danny Espinosa with a pitch, and Rick Ankiel drove them in with a triple to the gap in left center.

Detwiler, however, could not handle the prosperity. He labored through 4 1-3 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and four walks, striking out five. In his first three innings alone, he allowed four hits and three walks, throwing 77 pitches before finally retiring the side in order in the fourth.

Wang took over with a 4-1 lead and one out in the fifth, after Detwiler allowed Martin Prado’s third extra base hit of the game and a walk to Dan Uggla. Matt Diaz doubled to right on Wang’s first pitch, driving in both runners to make it 4-3, but was thrown out trying to take third after Rick Ankiel missed the cutoff man.

The Nationals chased Hudson with three runs in the seventh. Hudson walked Wang with two outs, and Steve Lombardozzi followed with a double to the right field corner. Hudson then pitched around Harper, walking him on four pitches, before Zimmerman drove a 2-0 pitch to the gap in left-center, clearing the bases.

Wang cruised through the sixth and seventh before allowing a one-out solo homer to Jason Heyward in the eighth. Sean Burnett allowed a hit around the final two outs of the inning to get to Clippard, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, closing it with a strikeout of Freddie Freeman.

The Braves’ first run came in the third, courtesy of some sloppy fielding by the Nats. Prado led off the third with his second hit of the game, a drive deep to the left field gap that Lombardozzi fielded off the wall. But Ankiel also came over from center to play the ball and tripped as Lombardozzi picked it up. Lombardozzi then tripped over Ankiel trying to come up with the ball and make a throw, allowing Prado to take third on the play. He was credited with a triple.

Champ of the Game: Wang. He pitched well enough to hold the lead against an Atlanta lineup that was missing some of its best hitters but was still tough.

For Atlanta, Prado. Two doubles, a triple and two runs scored. It took a slick fielding play by Espinosa to finally retire him in the seventh.

Chump of the Game: Detwiler. His struggles are troubling. He did not make it long enough to qualify for the win, and an Atlanta team at full strength could have made it really ugly.

For the Braves, it was Hudson. Teams often get to him early, but after the Braves pulled within 4-3, he uncharacteristically walked Wang with two outs, then could not close the deal against the top of the Nats’ order.

Unsung Hero: Zimmerman had had two doubles, including the hit that broke the game open in the seventh.

For the Braves, Diaz had two hits and drove in three of their four runs.

Next Game: May 26, 4:05 p.m., at Atlanta. Strasburg (4-1, 2.21) vs. Mike Minor (2-4, 6.96).