Zimmerman, Nationals overpower Braves in heat

ATLANTA STILL COLD IN THE HEAT

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ATLANTA — Tim Hudson knew it would be difficult to pitch in record temperatures. Falling behind by four runs in the first inning hardly helped.

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Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla can't field a grounder in the first inning against Washington. The Braves fell 4½ games back of the Nationals in the NL East. Washington is now 10-2-1 in its past 13 series with Atlanta.  DAVID TULIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
DAVID TULIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla can't field a grounder in the first inning against Washington. The Braves fell 4½ games back of the Nationals in the NL East. Washington is now 10-2-1 in its past 13 series with Atlanta.

“I was going to pitch as long as I could,” he said. “It wasn’t exactly a great first inning.”

Ryan Zimmerman homered and drove in four runs, and Gio Gonzalez scuffled for his sixth consecutive road victory to help the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 8-4 Sunday in 105-degree heat.

The temperature rose four degrees from the first pitch to 105 in the eighth inning. The National Weather Service reported that Atlanta broke an all-time record high at 106 on Saturday.

Gonzalez (11-3) capped his second All-Star selection despite allowing five hits, four runs and four walks in five-plus innings. He struck out four and threw 64 of his 114 pitches for strikes.

Washington, which has won four of five, took a 4-0 lead in the first off Hudson (6-4). The NL-leading Nationals are 10-2-1 in their last 13 series matchups against the Braves.

Atlanta has lost three of four overall and has dropped 17 of its past 28 games against Washington at Turner Field.

“They’re in first place for a reason,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. “We have the ability, as a team, to play brilliantly. We also have the ability, at times, to bring out our inner Bad News Bears.”

Zimmerman made it 2-0 by hitting a two-run double to center and later scored on Adam LaRoche’s sacrifice fly. Ian Desmond followed with a walk and scored from first when Michael Bourn allowed Rick Ankiel’s single to bounce past him for an error.

Washington went ahead 5-1 in the fifth when Zimmerman hit his sixth homer into the second level of left-field seats.

The Nationals led 6-1 in the sixth after Desmond doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jhonatan Solano’s RBI single.

“Day in, day out, they’re a tough team,” Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. “I think we match up against them well. We got back in it late, but it wasn’t enough.”

Freddie Freeman’s 10th homer, a three-run shot to deep center, cut the lead to 6-4 and chased Gonzalez with no outs in the sixth.

One day after watching his ace Stephen Strasburg leave the game after three innings because of the heat, Washington manager Davey Johnson replaced Gonzalez with Craig Stammen, who retired six of the seven batters he faced.

Hudson allowed eight hits and five earned runs in six innings, dropping to 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA in two starts against the Nationals this season. He began the game with a 14-4 record and a 2.35 ERA in 24 career starts against Washington.

“Ever since he’s been over here, he’s dominated us,” Zimmerman said of Hudson. “I know he’s dominated me, so for me to get a couple of hits off him and for us to score some runs early and give Gio kind of a cushion out there, is really big for us.”

Gonzalez overcame a 14-pitch at-bat by Andrelton Simmons that resulted in a second-inning walk with two out. Ross followed with a hard single, and Hudson walked before Gonzalez escaped the bases-loaded threat when Bourn lined out.

Jones’ RBI single cut the lead to 4-1 in the third, but Gonzalez settled down and needed just nine pitches to make it through the fourth.

Gonzalez, who pitched for Oakland last season, improved to 11-1 with a 2.85 ERA in his last 13 road starts.

The heat played a considerable role in his problems, but Hudson never felt comfortable on the mound.

“Just not very good stuff from location standpoint and pitch standpoint,” Hudson said. “I’ve got to make some better pitches with two strikes. I wasn’t great all day.”

TODAY’S GAME

WHAT: Chicago Cubs (Paul Maholm, 5-6, 4.84) at Atlanta Braves (Randall Delgado, 4-8, 4.52)

TIME/TV: 7:10p.m./SportSouth


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