Nationals 9, Braves 2

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WASHINGTON (AP)—Cruising through his first major league start, rookie Beltran Perez didn’t want to come out.

“I wanted to pitch nine innings,” Beltran said after allowing one hit over six innings Tuesday night in the Washington Nationals’ 9-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves 9-2.

“I just went pitch by pitch, inning by inning, hitter by hitter, see how long I go,” Perez said.

Perez (1-0), who had made five relief appearances since being called up from Double-A Harrisburg on Sept. 2, struck out three and walked none, allowing only a two-out single to Chipper Jones in the first inning. Perez, who threw 70 pitches, retired his final 16 batters.

“I was very impressed,” manager Frank Robinson said. “He went after hitters and threw pitches in the strike zone. Most important is he didn’t walk anybody.”

Nick Johnson homered on his 28th birthday, and Jose Vidro also connected off Chuck James (10-4), who lost for the first time in nine starts since Aug. 4. Alfonso Soriano added a two-run double—he has 39 doubles to go along with 40 stolen bases and 45 homers.

Atlanta’s magic number for playoff elimination was lowered to seven. The Braves have been to the playoffs each year since 1991.

James (10-4) allowed five runs, five hits and six walks in 4 1-3 innings with seven strikeouts. It was his shortest outing since he allowed seven runs in one inning against the New York Mets on July 30.

“I could tell that I didn’t have my command I usually have,” James said. “I was hoping I could work thorough it and bounce back from it. It just kept on getting worse as the game went on.”

Johnson hit his 23rd homer leading off the second, and Washington made it 3-0 in the third on Austin Kearns’ RBI double and Brandon Harper’s sacrifice fly. Vidro’s two-run homer in the fifth chased James, and Ryan Zimmerman made it 6-0 with an RBI double off Kevin Barry in the sixth.

Brian McCann singled in the Braves’ first run in the seventh off Saul Rivera. Nook Logan had an RBI single off Barry in the seventh, and Soriano doubled off Ken Ray for a 9-1 lead.

Notes

Johnson is the first player to homer on his birthday for Nationals since the team moved to Washington in 2005. … Nationals OF George Lombard stole second and third in the sixth, his first stolen bases since April 27, 2003, for Tampa Bay.

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