WASHINGTON — After winning the first two games of their four-game weekend series, Atlanta was looking to move closer to Washington in the National League East. Losses in the last two gave the Braves a split and put them back where they were at the start – 31/2 games behind the Nationals.
Ryan Zimmerman homered twice and drove in three runs, and Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina each had three hits and two RBI as Washington finished with 18 hits in a 9-2 victory Sunday.
“Today was not good from pitch one,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. “But we came in here and held our own for the most part. Thought we played well for the most part. We’re right back where we started.”
After Washington blew a 9-0 lead Friday night in an 11-10 loss, the teams split a Saturday doubleheader.
Atlanta’s arms and bats share blame in the losses.
Starting with the late stages of Friday’s thriller through the fourth inning of Saturday’s late game, Atlanta held Washington scoreless for 15 innings. From there, the Braves gave up 14 runs over the next 13 innings – including eight in the first five innings Sunday.
The primary culprit in the finale was Jair Jurrjens (3-4), who allowed six runs and nine hits in 2⅓ innings. Zimmerman’s two-run homer and Espinosa’s double keyed a four-run first.
In the fourth inning, Zimmerman’s solo shot and Espinosa’s RBI double finished off the Braves’ starter.
“Getting to two strikes was easy for me today,” said Jurrjens, who jumped ahead 1-2 in the count both times Zimmerman homered. “After two strikes, I didn’t know how to make a quality pitch to get them out. I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of pitches came over the plate and they make it hurt.”
In his past two starts, Jurrjens has allowed 14 runs and 17 hits in six innings.
“We’ve struggled with our consistency because we’ve struggled at the end of our rotation. You saw it today,” said Jones, who finished 2 for 4. “It’s a little demoralizing when you’re in a dogfight for the division and you’re constantly fighting from behind.”
After taking a 2-0 first-inning lead in Saturday night’s meeting, the Braves bats went silent, scoring only two runs over their final 17 innings of the series.
By the time Martin Prado and Jason Heyward scored on a passed ball and grounder, respectively, in the sixth, Atlanta had too much ground to make up.
Atlanta’s best hope against Nationals starter Ross Detwiler (5-3) came in the fourth. Trailing 6-0, three singles in the inning brought up Brian McCann with the bases loaded and one out. The Braves’ catcher has been producing home runs lately, but McCann grounded back to the mound for an inning-ending double play.
“They got out of it with probably our hottest hitter, with Mac at the plate,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He just happened to hit a 1-2-3 double play and that kind of took the steam out of it. You feel like in the course of the game like that there’s going to be an opportunity, somewhere where your team gets back in it somehow. That was our opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it. Detwiler kind of settled down a little bit and the rest is history.”
Detwiler allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings to win his first game since May 3.
Bernadina has reached base on six hits and a walk in his last seven plate appearances. Michael Morse had three hits and scored three runs for the Nationals.