Nationals 2, Braves 1
WASHINGTON (AP)—Jason Bergmann was so focused that he almost forgot he had to hit.
Bergmann cruised through the first seven innings but Brian McCann hit a leadoff homer in the eighth. The right-hander responded by retiring the next three to get out of the inning.
“It wasn’t like it was a big deal,” Bergmann said. “You try to limit the number of hits you give up. If it’s zero, it’s fine. I wasn’t going for the no-hitter at all.”
Bergmann was so focused that he forgot to go to the on-deck circle in the seventh inning after Braves pitcher John Smoltz hurt his pitching hand making a tag in a rundown. Manager Manny Acta had to remind him about his hitting responsibilities.
Bergmann came out for the ninth inning and departed after pinch-hitter Matt Diaz singled. Jesus Colome got two outs before Edgar Renteria singled to bring up Andruw Jones, who struck out after being ahead 3-0. It was Colome’s first save of the season.
Bergmann (1-3) struck out 10 and walked one to get his first win since Sept. 15, 2005, and first in 15 major league starts. He’s holding opponents to a .162 batting average.
“I really thought he was going to do it,” Acta said of the no-hitter. “He was spectacular.”
The Nationals have won four straight, all at home, following an eight-game skid on the road.
Smoltz, who turns 40 on Tuesday, pitched well before he dislocated his right pinky finger tagging Austin Kearns in the bottom of the seventh.
Immediately after applying the tag at chest level, Smoltz fell to the ground in obvious pain. He then got up, looked at his hand and slammed his glove to the ground in frustration. He left the field after being examined by a trainer.
X-rays were negative.
“It was just fluky,” Smoltz said. “I don’t know how it happened. It happened so fast, and the next thing I know, I’m looking at my hand going ‘oh no’—and I’m coming off the field.”
Smoltz (5-2) worked 6 2-3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits. He walked two and struck out five in his first loss since April 12, also against Washington—when Bergmann allowed just one hit in six innings.
“The hitters were focusing on Smoltz. I was focusing on pitching,” Bergmann said.
Cristian Guzman tripled against Smoltz in the first and scored when Ryan Zimmerman bounced out to shortstop. That was it for the Nationals until Kearns doubled in Ryan Church in the seventh to make it 2-0.
Bergmann retired the first nine batters he faced before Kelly Johnson drew a four-pitch walk. He stole second when Willie Harris struck out. He was stranded there when the Nationals made two nice plays. First baseman Robert Fick leaned into the stands to catch Renteria’s popup, and a batter later, shortstop Guzman raced into short left field to snare Jones’ popup.
Jones was hitless in three at-bats against Bergmann, and he’s now 1-for-12 against him.
“He just pitched good against us all the time. We know his pitches. We know what he throws. We just can’t hit it,” Jones said.
It was the fourth time in his eight starts that Bergmann pitched at least six innings and held his opponents to two hits or fewer. Against the Braves this season, Bergmann has allowed three hits in 14 innings. The eight-plus innings were a career high.< Notes:@ The Nationals optioned OF Kory Casto to Triple-A Columbus after the game. They’ll reactivate RHP Jerome Williams from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. Williams is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game. … Smoltz is 1-2 against Washington this season. … Atlanta INF Chipper Jones missed his third straight game with bruised wrists and thumbs. He was originally in the lineup, but scratched before gametime. … Washington placed RHP Shawn Hill on the 15-day disabled list and activated RHP Chad Cordero from the bereavement list. … Nationals 1B Dmitri Young did not start for the sixth straight game due to a sore left Achilles’.