Strasburg dominates as Nationals hold off Braves 4-2, move closer to clinching NL East title



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ATLANTA — Stephen Strasburg threw seven scoreless innings to end a long run of frustration against Atlanta, and the Nationals beat the struggling Braves 4-2 on Monday night to move to the verge of the NL East title.

The Nationals can clinch the division by beating the defending champion Braves on Tuesday night.

Strasburg (12-11) ended a streak of eight winless starts against Atlanta since 2012. He had been 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA against the Braves this season, including a 6-2 loss at Washington last Wednesday.

Wilson Ramos hit his 11th homer in the fifth. The Nationals led 4-0 before the Braves scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth.

Washington left fielder Bryce Harper left the game in the fourth inning after feeling light-headed.

The Braves (75-75) have lost four straight to fall to .500 for the first time since they were 1-1. They trail Pittsburgh by 4 1-2 games for the second NL wild-card spot.

Washington's Craig Stammen pitched a scoreless eighth before Rafael Soriano gave up Justin Upton's run-scoring double in the ninth. After Soriano walked Chris Johnson, Drew Storen gave up Christian Bethancourt's single up the middle to drive in Upton.

Storen's wild pitch left runners on second and third, but B.J. Upton grounded out to end the game. Storen earned his sixth save.

Ervin Santana (14-9) allowed two runs and only three hits, including Ramos' homer, in six innings.

The frustration for the sagging Braves showed when Freddie Freeman was ejected for arguing following his strikeout to end the sixth. Freeman slammed his bat to the ground before leaving the field.

Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez took over the argument, kicked Freeman's broken bat, and was tossed by home-plate umpire Tim Timmons.

Strasburg's seventh-inning single off Luis Avilan drove in Asdrubal Cabrera, who doubled with two outs.

The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the third. Ramos led off with a walk, moved to second on Strasburg's sacrifice, and scored on Denard Span's double into the right-field corner.

With two outs in the fourth and Jayson Werth on third following a leadoff double, Nate Schierholtz struck out as a pinch-hitter for Harper. The Nationals provided no further update on Harper's condition.

Schierholtz had a run-scoring single off Gus Schlosser in the eighth.

Strasburg pitched out of fifth-inning trouble caused in part by his throwing error. Jason Heyward led off with a single to right and moved on third on Strasburg's wild pickoff throw to first base.

Heyward was stranded on third as Strasburg recorded three straight outs, two on strikeouts of Johnson and B.J. Upton.

Strasburg's last win over the Braves came on Aug. 21, 2012.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman (right hamstring) is beginning a rehab schedule at the team's complex in Viera, Florida. He is expected to play three innings at first base in a simulated game on Tuesday, followed by five innings on Wednesday, a game as the DH and then progressing to seven and nine innings. He will play different positions as he progresses.

Braves: C Evan Gattis met with team doctors on Monday to determine why his strep throat symptoms have lasted longer than expected. He has missed seven games since his last start on Sept. 7.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Tanner Roark, who ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New York Mets on Thursday, will try for his 14th win when he faces the Braves on Tuesday.

Braves: Aaron Harang will attempt to continue his 2014 success against Washington. He is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts against the Nationals this season.

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