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Haren, Nationals shut down Braves

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson walked to the mound to talk to starting pitcher Dan Haren in the eighth inning. The conversation was concise, just as he'd hoped, and ended with a laugh.

"I went out there and said, 'Heckuva ballgame. How do you feel?'" Johnson said. "He said, 'I feel good.' I said, 'Good, I'm out of here.'"

Johnson grinned and returned to the dugout, and Haren got the final two outs, the last one a strikeout of Chris Johnson, the league's leading hitter, who represented the tying run at the plate. Closer Rafael Soriano came in and pitched a scoreless ninth, and Washington completed a 3-1 win over Atlanta to split a four-game series at Turner Field.

"I didn't want him to give up something late in the ballgame when we had somebody good warmed up," Davey Johnson said. "I had (Drew) Storen hot, but I liked the way (Haren) was thinking. It was a situation I wanted to see up close."

Haren (3-3) retired the first eight batters he faced and didn't allow his first hit until two outs in the fourth. He wound up allowing four hits, one walk and one run, and he struck out four.

The right-hander lost his shutout with two out in the seventh inning when Dan Uggla tagged him for a long home run, his fifth of the season. That run broke a streak of 18 scoreless innings by Washington pitchers.

Haren was acquired as a free agent in the offseason and has been lost in the shadows of Washington's other starters. He entered the game, his sixth start, with a 6.29 ERA, but he wound up making his longest appearance since he threw a shutout at Seattle on May 24, 2012, when he was pitching for the Los Angeles Angels.

"He's a great professional," Johnson said. "He knows what he's doing out there. That's the kind of ballgame he can pitch."

Soriano earned his ninth save. The former Brave retired allowed a two-out single to Evan Gattis, then got Uggla on a popout to end the game.

The win moved Washington back within 2 1/2 games of the Braves in the NL East.

"(Haren) commanded hit pitches better than we've seen him," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He had it going. When we took a pitch, it was for a strike."

Atlanta's Kris Medlen (1-4) allowed three runs in the first two innings before he settled down and retired nine straight hitters. Medlen gave up seven hits, three walks and struck out eight in seven innings. He took his third straight defeat.

"I didn't have my 'A' game for the first couple of innings," Medlen said.

Gonzalez disagreed.

"I thought Medlen was outstanding," the manager said. "He gave us seven strong innings."

Washington's offense was paced by center fielder Denard Span, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk, a run and two RBIs.

The Nationals scored quickly off Medlen in the first inning. Span yanked a double into the right field corner and scored when Steve Lombardozzi broke an 0-for-17 streak with a sharp single to left. The run was the first Span scored in 13 games since he missed two games with stomach flu.

The Nationals added two more runs in the second inning with two outs. Span grounded a ball off the end of his bat that baffled Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson and rolled into shallow left. The well-placed double -- originally ruled an error and changed an inning later -- allowed Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos to score.

"I think Chris makes that play 99 out of 100 times," Gonzalez said. "He came into the dugout and said, 'I booted that one.' We make a play there and it's a one-run game. ...

"We pitched good enough to win the series, and they pitched a little better the last two games, so give them credit."

Washington right fielder Jayson Werth started the game but was removed in the fifth inning for pinch hitter after his ailing hamstring tightened up. He may have tweaked it while chasing a fly ball, Johnson said.

NOTES: Atlanta LF Justin Upton was named the NL Player of the Month, and C Evan Gattis was named NL Rookie of the Month. Upton had a league-leading 12 home runs and .734 slugging percentage during April, while Gattis has six home runs and five game-winning RBIs. ... Washington LF Bryce Harper (side/shoulder) was back in the lineup after leaving Wednesday's game. ... Nationals pitchers had retired 28 straight batters over two games before Medlen walked in the third inning. ... Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman will come off the 15-day disabled list Friday and join the team in Pittsburgh. He's been sidelined with a sore left hamstring. Zimmerman experienced no issues while going 0-for-3 Wednesday in a rehab start for Class A Potomac.
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