Tanner Roark. You expected anyone else? Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Nationals scored two early runs for starter Tanner Roark (7-4) and led the entire game in a 4-1 win against the visiting Atlanta Braves.
Looking to even up the four-game series and retain ownership of first in the East, the Nats jumped on Ervin Santana (5-5) early, plating two first-inning runs with an RBI single by Adam LaRoche and a sacrifice fly by Ryan Zimmerman.
In the fifth, the Nats added another run with an RBI double by Denard Span. The Braves scored their sole run in the top of sixth when Justin Upton’s single brought home Freddie Freeman. The run ended 14 1/3 straight innings the Nats held the Braves scoreless over the last two games. The Nats then extended their lead to 4-1 in the eighth when Anthony Rendon scored on a wild pitch from reliever Luis Avilan.
Roark cruised through the first three innings, but he threw 51 pitches through the fourth and fifth and looked gassed by the top of the sixth. On the day, Roark threw 5 1/3 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits and three walks with three strike outs. Craig Stammen relieved Roark, getting out of the sixth with two on and one out.
Nats relievers combined to throw 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief, striking out four. Rafael Soriano struck out the side in the ninth, earning his 17th save.
In the last two games in the series, Nats pitchers combined to allow only one earned run on nine hits.
Santana pitched well for the Braves after the two early runs. He surrendered three earned runs total on six hits and one walk while striking out nine.
Span continued his hot hitting against the Braves, going 2-for-4 in the game with a double and a RBI. In the series, Span went 6-for-17 with three doubles, a triple, and two RBIs. LaRoche and Danny Espinosa each recorded two hits on the afternoon. In the four-game series, LaRoche went 5-for-15 while Espinosa went 5-for-14 with two doubles.
With the Marlins losing 11-5 on Sunday afternoon to the Mets, the Nats now sit 1 ½ games ahead of the Braves and 2 ½ games ahead of the Marlins in the East.
After their 4-3 home stand, the Nats next travel to Milwaukee to begin a three-game series against the Central leading Brewers. On Monday, Gio Gonzalez (3-4) makes his second start since returning from the disabled list. He opposes Matt Garza (4-4).