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Ejections spark Braves past Nationals

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- Atlanta starter Alex Wood's frustration over home plate umpire CB Bucknor's strike zone caused some trouble in the fifth inning. That anger eventually led to the ejection of both Wood and manager Fredi Gonzalez.

But it also seemed to spark the Braves.

Justin Upton and Dan Uggla both homered a few minutes later during a three-run sixth inning that gave Atlanta the lead, and the bullpen helped the Braves lock up a 5-2 victory over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.

Atlanta (90-62) prevented Washington from sweeping the three-game series. The Braves reduced their magic number to two for clinching the National League East title.

Wood got angry when Bucknor didn't give him a strike call on a close 3-2 pitch to Jayson Werth with the bases loaded in the fifth. Gonzalez came out to argue and protect his pitcher and got tossed.

The right-hander then gave up a sacrifice fly to Bryce Harper, the next hitter, as the Nationals took a 2-0 lead. The call went to the bullpen; Wood's night was over. But as he was leaving the mound, Wood said something in Bucknor's direction and the Braves' starter got tossed, too.

"It was just one of those things where I let my emotions get the best of me there," Wood said. "I kind of felt it could have gone the other way and I did some things, said some things I probably shouldn't have said. Immediately regretted it after I got inside (the clubhouse)."

Upton and Uggla both said Wood's reaction might have given the team a needed edge.

"It definitely brought some energy," Upton said. "He was out there and he was grinding for us and battling. He was fired up, and we knew he wanted this one. We all wanted this one."

Gonzalez said that Wood really can't make a habit out of that kind of behavior on the mound during a game.

The skipper and pitching coach Roger McDowell and other veterans are going to talk with Wood.

"Whether you're a rookie or a veteran, you don't do that kind of stuff on the mound," Gonzalez said. "That's something you learn from, and control your emotions. So, we'll chalk it up as a young starter in an emotional game that we wanted to win and he got himself a little excited."

The Nationals were up at that point, but then the game turned toward the Braves' favor.

Uggla started the sixth with a solo homer off Ross Ohlendorf (4-1). Upton later hit a two-run shot that gave the Braves a 3-2 lead.

Six Atlanta relief pitchers combined to throw 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Kameron Loe (1-2) got the win, and the bullpen allowed just one hit overall. Craig Kimbrel closed it in the ninth for his 48th save, one day after blowing a save in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader.

The Braves added an insurance run in the seventh on Brian McCann's RBI double. Washington (81-71) threatened in the bottom half, putting two runners on, but the Braves used three pitchers to get through the inning without allowing a run.

For the Nationals, Denard Span stretched his hitting streak to 29 games with a leadoff single in the seventh. His streak is the longest in the majors this year. Span is one game away from tying Ryan Zimmerman's team record, set in 2009.

Ohlendorf had little trouble in the early innings. The right-hander retired the first 10 batters and blanked Atlanta through the first five frames.

The Nationals broke through with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning before Gonzalez and Wood were ejected.

Anthony Rendon led off with a single and went to second on an Ohlendorf sacrifice. Rendon then moved to third when Span reached on first baseman Freddie Freeman's error.

Zimmerman and Jayson Werth both followed with walks, the latter forcing in a run. Harper followed with his sacrifice fly, but Washington couldn't do anything on offense after that.

"We've just to start another win streak," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "It's that simple. We just can't afford to lose."

NOTES: Washington catcher Wilson Ramos made it back into the lineup after a brief break. He started 24 straight games (tops in the majors this year) before Johnson gave him a breather in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader. ... Zimmerman has 10 homers this month, the most in the majors. ... Braves SS Andrelton Simmons didn't start due to neck stiffness, but he entered as a pinch runner and remained in the game. ... The Braves lead the National League with 17 pick-offs this season. Toronto (18) leads the majors.
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