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Three Braves relievers mow down Nats

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- More than one Braves reliever deserved credit for the save Monday.

The Atlanta bullpen retired all 11 batters it faced, and the Braves snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals.

Jordan Walden, Eric O'Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel pitched 3 2/3 perfect innings as the Braves beat the Nationals for the eighth straight time.

"The bullpen was terrific," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "The bullpen was the key to the game. Walden gave us a clean seventh, and O'Flaherty and Kimbrel do what they always do, which is give us a chance to win."

The Atlanta bullpen has allowed only 59 hits and 17 runs in 74 innings (2.07). The relievers have allowed only four of 26 inherited runners to score.

The win increased the Braves' lead in the NL East to 3 1/2 games over the Nationals, who have lost two straight.

Walden (1-0) entered the game with one out in the sixth inning in relief of starter Julio Teheran. With runners on first and second, Walden struck out Chad Tracy and got Kurt Suzuki to fly out to end the threat.

"Walden was spectacular tonight," Kimbrel said. "He had that changeup going. The batters looked like they didn't know he had it."

O'Flaherty struck out two batters in the eighth, and Kimbrel struck out one in the ninth to earn his ninth save, second best in the National League.

It was a chance at redemption for Kimbrel. He allowed two runs in his most recent outing at Denver for his first blown save.

"I'm glad for us to get back in the win column and get a save," he said.

The Braves pushed across the winning run in the seventh inning off reliever Tyler Clippard (1-1) when Andrelton Simmons drove in Gerald Laird with a sacrifice fly to right field. Laird coaxed a leadoff walk, then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and a deep fly. He scored on Simmons' sharp fly to Jayson Werth, whose throw to the plate was wide, allowing Laird to slide home with the go-ahead run.

"We manufactured a run there in the seventh and gave the ball to our bullpen," Gonzalez said.

Both starting pitchers were effective, but neither figured in the decision. Washington's Stephen Strasburg, who had lost his previous four starts, allowed six hits and two runs over six innings. He walked four and struck out eight.

Washington manager Davey Johnson said he was concerned about Strasburg, who complained of tightness in his forearm. Johnson said he might normally have stayed with Strasburg longer; the right-hander threw only 93 pitches and struck out the last three batters he faced.

"He didn't look right to me," Johnson said. "He was still throwing the ball hard. A lot of times he shakes his elbow to stay loose. This was more frequent. That, coupled with the ball going everywhere ..."

Johnson said the team's medical staff will examine Strasburg, but he would not speculate about how it would affect Strasburg's next start.

"We had a good approach to him, but that may be a byproduct of the fact we see him six times a year," Gonzalez said. "We only scored two runs off him. It's not like we ran him out of there in the third inning."

Teheran allowed 10 hits, one walk and two runs, and he struck out five in 5 1/3 innings.

"What did he have, one base on balls?" Gonzalez said. "We're watching him grow in front of eyes, like we did with (Mike) Minor last year."

Both teams scored early, but had potential rallies short-circuited by base-running mistakes.

"We missed a lot of opportunities," Johnson said, "but that's the ballgame. We'll see you tomorrow."

NOTES: The Nationals reinstated catcher Wilson Ramos from the 15-day disabled list and optioned catcher Jhonatan Solano to Triple-A Syracuse. Ramos, who didn't play Monday, missed the previous 14 games with a strained left hamstring. He was hitting .300 with two homers at the time he got hurt. Solano was 1-for-6 in three games for the Nationals. ... Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche ended an 0-for-26 streak with a single in his first at-bat. ... The Nationals were facing a rookie pitcher for the fourth time this season; they had lost the three previous starts. ... The Braves struck out 39 times in their three-game sweep at Detroit, the most for the club since 1900. Atlanta batters fanned 11 times Monday. ... In a pregame ceremony held in front of the Atlanta dugout, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill that will create a premium Atlanta Braves automobile license.
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