Atlanta Braves wild-card lead shrinks

Nationals 4, Braves 1

WASHINGTON — The Atlanta Braves still lead an NL wild-card race they already should have clinched.


Atlanta’s offense was shut down Saturday by Chien-Ming Wang, who also drove in a run with his first career hit in a 4-1 victory.

With St. Louis rallying in the ninth inning to beat the Chicago Cubs, the Braves’ lead over St. Louis was cut to two games with four remaining.

“It’s another day knocked off the schedule,” said Freddie Freeman, who homered for the Braves. “Obviously we’re scoreboard watching.”

Atlanta lost for the 16th time in its past 26 games.

“We’ve got to win ballgames,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “It’s nice to watch the scoreboard and do all that kind of stuff, but we’ve got to win our games that are in front of us.”

Making his 11th start since returning from a two-year layoff after a shoulder surgery, Wang (4-3) allowed one run and four hits in six innings and lowered his ERA to 4.04. He fanned four.

“We couldn’t figure him out,” Freeman said.

Wang’s RBI single off Brandon Beachy (7-3) capped a three-run fourth that put the Nationals ahead 4-0. He had been 0 for 32 at the plate in his career.

Danny Espinosa also hit a two-run single in the inning for Washington, which has won six of its past seven.

Beachy struck out nine, but allowed four runs, five hits and four walks in six innings.

“At times, I feel really good. I feel dominant,” he said. “Everything I’m throwing up there goes where I want it to, and then the next batter it’s gone. I just have to find that consistency.”

Beachy is 0-1 with a 5.27 ERA in his past five starts.

“That’s the growing pains of a young pitcher,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes you sit around and forget this is his first year in the major leagues, he’s pitching in a pennant race, trying to learn and trying to get better.”