Red-hot Braves drop Nationals in chippy contest

Atlanta 2, Washington 1

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WASHINGTON — Hit by a pitch two innings after homering, Bryce Harper jawed and pointed at Atlanta’s Julio Teheran, and the dugouts and bullpens emptied during the NL East-leading Braves’ 2-1 victory over the Nationals on Tuesday night.

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Atlanta's Evan Gattis smacks a two-run single Tuesday night. The Braves won to push their NL East lead to 14½ games.  ALEX BRANDON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
ALEX BRANDON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta's Evan Gattis smacks a two-run single Tuesday night. The Braves won to push their NL East lead to 14½ games.

Evan Gattis’ two-run single in the fifth inning and the six innings thrown by Teheran (9-5) while allowing one run combined to produce Atlanta’s season-high 12th consecutive win, padding their NL East lead to 14½ games over Washington.

Gattis’ big hit came off Gio Gonzalez (7-5), who pitched one night after Major League Baseball announced its Biogenesis investigation cleared the left-hander.

Adding to the theatrics: Gattis was only in the game because he replaced Jason Heyward, who left with a neck muscle strain after popping out in the first inning.

Harper put Washington ahead 1-0 with his 17th homer. Harper paused a bit as he left the batter’s box, watching the ball fly, then dropped his bat and took a slower-than-usual-for-him trot around the bases.

He came up again in the fifth, with Washington now trailing 2-1, and Teheran plunked him on the right leg. The 2012 NL Rookie of the Year barked at Teheran and pointed at the right-hander.

The benches cleared, but no punches were thrown.

Braves catcher Brian McCann moved toward Harper, before an umpire got in the way.

By then, members of both teams were streaming onto the field, but they stayed separated and no punches were thrown. Even Heyward came out onto the grass, with a blue shirt on but not his jersey.

Not long after, the official Twitter feeds of the Braves and Nationals mixed it up a bit.

The Braves tweeted: “Clown move bro,” tweaking Harper’s famous retort to a reporter last season, “That’s a clown question, bro.”

The Nationals then replied on Twitter: “Which part, giving up the home run, or drilling the 20-year-old on the first pitch his next time up?”

Teheran wound up allowing four hits and the lone run. He gave way to Luis Avilan, who got two quick outs to start the seventh.

But then the Nationals loaded the bases on Harper’s single up the middle, a throwing error by third baseman Chris Johnson and a walk.

That brought up cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche, who got ahead in the count 2-0, then grounded meekly to first baseman Freddie Freeman.

That’s been the story of the season for the Nationals, whose offense has struggled since April. They lost Monday’s series opener 3-2.

Jordan Walden struck out three in the eighth Tuesday, and Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth for his 35th save, getting Harper swinging at a 99 mph fastball to end it.

With so much trouble scoring, Nationals manager Davey Johnson tried shaking things up a bit Tuesday, putting Ryan Zimmerman in the No. 2 hole, behind Harper, instead of his usual No. 3 or occasional No. 4 spot. It was the first time in nine major league seasons that Zimmerman started a game hitting second. Johnson moved Jayson Werth to No. 3, with Wilson Ramos up to No. 6 instead of No. 8.

Asked before the game to explain the changes, Johnson replied: “It’s just something.”

TODAY’S GAME

WHAT: Atlanta Braves (Kris Medlen 8-10, 3.85) at Washington Nationals (Jordan Zimmermann 13-6, 3.06)

TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m./SportSouth


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