McCann’s 3-run double lifts Braves past Nationals

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ATLANTA (AP)—The Braves believe they’re still in the NL East race.

They also believe it’s time to back up that belief.

Brian McCann’s three-run double gave Atlanta the lead in the third inning, and the Braves survived the Washington Nationals’ ninth-inning rally to win 7-6 on Friday night.

The Nationals left the tying run on third base in the ninth.

The Braves, who play at Florida and Philadelphia after the weekend series with the Nationals, are 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Phillies in the division.

“I think everyone in here still feels like we can move up and win our division,” said Tim Hudson, who earned his seventh straight win over the Nationals.

“We’re going to find out where we stand after this week,” added McCann.

Hudson said players understand “the next couple of weeks are going to be pretty important” and could determine if the team buys or sells at the July 31 trade deadline.

“We just have to go out and prove it to our fans and to the front office that we have the team that can win the division,” Hudson said.

The Braves, playing their first game after the All-Star break, improved to only 6-22 in one-run games.

“It was nice to go out and win one of these kinds of games,” Hudson said. “Normally we’re on the short end of these games. It’s nice to win a close one.”

Hudson (10-7) gave up nine hits and five runs in 6 2-3 innings. He walked only one batter but wasn’t happy with his control.

“I really didn’t have a good feeling where the ball was going,” Hudson said. “My location wasn’t very good. … My sinker was moving a lot. It was kind of effectively wild for a while.”

Big hits by McCann and rookie Brent Lillibridge helped Hudson improve to 8-1 in 12 career starts against Washington. Hudson is 7-0 in his last eight starts against the Nationals. He began the night with a 1.13 career ERA against Washington.

Lillibridge gave the Braves a 2-0 lead in the second with a two-run double.

The Nationals, trailing 7-5, scored a run in the ninth against Mike Gonzalez. Pinch-hitter Felipe Lopez hit a one-out single and moved to third on a double to right by Willie Harris. Lopez scored on Paul Lo Duca’s grounder to second, sending Harris to third.

Gonzalez hit Christian Guzman with a pitch but earned his fourth save when Austin Kearns flied out to right field.

“I like the way we fought,” Washington manager Manny Acta said. “They came out against their closer and gave him a battle.”

Gonzalez, who has a 3.09 ERA in his first 11 games since returning from elbow surgery, said he was not sharp after four straight days off.

“I’m glad I got that one out of the way,” Gonzalez said. “That was the worst one and I still got it done. I’m fine with that.

“I hadn’t been on a mound for four days. No stiffness. It was just the whole overall body. I felt rusty, like I was getting out the kinks once again.”

Lillibridge, making his fourth straight start for Yunel Escobar (sore left shoulder), was 2-for-4 and has four extra-base hits in his last three games.

Lillibridge added a single in the sixth and scored on Kelly Johnson’s single.

The Nationals tied it with three hits in the third. Kory Casto led off with a double over Mark Kotsay in center field and scored on Ryan Langerhans’ single. With two outs, Lo Duca drove in Langerhans with another single up the middle.

The Braves scored four in the third. McCann’s bases-loaded double to right drove in Gregor Blanco, Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira. Blanco and Teixeira reached on walks. Kotsay added a single to drive in McCann for a 6-2 lead.

Tim Redding (7-4) gave up six runs on six hits and three walks in four innings, matching his shortest start of the season. The six earned runs allowed matched his season high.

Redding, who ended a string of nine straight no-decisions with a win over Houston on July 10, lost for the first time since May 9.

Ronnie Belliard drove in Kearns in the sixth, and the Nationals added two more runs in the seventh. Langerhans led off the seventh with a triple to right and scored on pinch-hitter Pete Orr’s fly ball. Harris walked and scored on Guzman’s single.

Nationals catcher Johnny Estrada was 0-for-4 after coming off the 15-day disabled list. The Nationals put outfielder Wily Mo Pena on the disabled list Friday with an injured left shoulder that will require surgery.

Notes

1B Dimitri Young was held out due to high blood sugar, according to Acta. Acta said Young, who has diabetes, had blurred vision and didn’t feel better after taking insulin. … Lo Duca, listed in left field in the original lineup, instead started at first base. Langerhans started in left field. … Washington has lost 10 of its last 11 road games. … OF Jeff Francoeur, playing in his first home game since being sent to the minor leagues to work on his swing, was 0-for-3 and was hit by a pitch.

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