Braves 8, Nationals 0

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ATLANTA (AP)—Less than two weeks into the season, the gap between the top and bottom of the NL East already looks imposing.

Tim Hudson pitched three-hit ball over seven innings and Jeff Francouer drove in five runs, sending the Atlanta Braves to an 8-0 victory Tuesday night that extended the hapless Nationals’ losing streak to five.

Washington (1-7) has been outscored 53-18, falling behind by at least 3-0 in every game. The Nationals haven’t scored in the first three innings of any game and never led at the time of any pitch—their only win came on a ninth-inning single by Dmitri Young against Florida on April 4.

“We’re still waiting for that lead,” Washington manager Manny Acta said. “We haven’t gotten a lead yet.”

Matt Chico (0-1), slowed by flu, allowed four runs—one earned—and six hits in 4 2-3 innings. He was hurt by errors by Dmitri Young at first and Belliard at shortstop, the latter a dropped popup that led to three unearned runs.

“There’s only so much you can do about working on catching a throw, catching a popup,” Acta said. “We have to do those types of things. We’re going to have to start catching the ball.”

Arizona’s Livan Hernandez took a no-hitter into the sixth against Washington on Sunday, and Hudson (1-0) held the Nationals without a hit for 4 2-3 innings before Belliard blooped a single. Hudson struck out seven and walked one, lowering his ERA to 0.64.

Washington never had a runner reach third base.

“I hear the guys pulling for each other but things are not happening,” Acta said. “And also, it was no easy cookie for us out there. It was Tim Hudson at his best. Too much Hudson for us, basically, tonight.”

Mike Gonzalez and Chad Paronto combined to finish the four-hitter.

“I couldn’t ask for a better start to my season,” Hudson said. “As a team we couldn’t ask for a better start, either.”

Andruw Jones hit his first homer of the season for the Braves, who are 6-1 for the first time since winning seven of their first eight en route to the 1995 World Series title.

Jones, hitting only .130 through six games, had a fourth-inning homer that landed about seven rows deep in the left-field seats.

After Belliard dropped Edgar Renteria’s popup in the fifth, Francouer hit a two-run double over Ryan Church in center, then scored on Brian McCann’s double, which chased Chico.

Renteria added an RBI double in the eighth, and Francouer hit a three-run homer Ray King.

The Braves, trying to rebound from last year’s third-place finish, have had enough to worry about—especially with the loss of pitcher Mike Hampton to season-ending elbow surgery on Tuesday.

Even so, some Atlanta players couldn’t help but case an empathetic eye toward the struggling Nationals.

“Obviously it hurts them having Nick Johnson out of the lineup,” Francouer said, referring to the Nationals’ first baseman who is recovering from a broken right leg. “They’re young. They’re building. They’ll have a new stadium next year and will get going. They remind me a lot of the Marlins last year; once they get going they’ll be tough.”


Acta said King has inflammation in his left shoulder and won’t throw. King, who gave up four runs, two hits and three walks, will be given medication and won’t placed on the DL. … Hudson struck out the side in the second after Young’s leadoff walk. Jones, who turns 30 on April 23, has 343 homers and broke a three-way tie for sixth place for most before the age of 30. Hank Aaron and Mel Ott hit 342.

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