The Atlanta Braves mercifully ended their four-game losing streak Wednesday night at Nationals Park, thanks in large part to Kris Medlen throwing seven shutout innings and drawing a key two-out walk that led to the Braves' first runs in the 5-1 win over the Washington Nationals.
The win brings the Braves to within six games of the Nationals for the NL East pennant. A loss would have dropped them to eight games back and meant a Washington sweep for the series.
"We didn't want to be one more game back in the standings," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's nice for us to get a little momentum [going] to the West Coast. Hopefully, this win will get us going in the right direction."
Medlen's changeup was devastating to Washington's lineup. He threw seven shutout innings, giving up seven hits and only one walk while striking out seven. He also broke three bats and broke John Smoltz's franchise record by the club winning his 16th straight start.
"It's a lot of fun, especially [because] they're the best team in baseball," Medlen said. "And to be able to kind of go through their lineup and make the pitches when I needed to, it was a lot of fun."
Medlen was able to keep his composure and escape some key jams, such as when Washington had runners on the corners with one out in the second. He was able to induce a double play from Kurt Suzuki. The Nationals loaded the bases in the sixth with one out, but Medlen got Adam LaRoche to pop out and Ian Desmond to groundout.
The 26-year-old also had a vital plate appearance against Ross Detwiler with a runner on first in the fifth inning, when Detwiler walked him on four straight pitches.
"I was sitting there taking. I really had no chance," Medlen said.
The walk brought Martin Prado, who hit leadoff with Michael Bourn getting a night off, to the plate. He lined one to right-center that Bryce Harper misplayed just slightly. The ball got over Harper's head for a two-run double.
Michael Morse hit an RBI-single for the Nats in the eighth off Eric O'Flaherty, but Atlanta capitalized on two errors and a wild pitch in the top of the ninth for a more comfortable lead.
Chipper Jones started by reaching on a rare error by Ryan Zimmerman. Freddie Freeman doubled Jones to second, and David Ross hit a sacrifice fly to move up both runners 90 feet. A pinch-hitting Michael Bourn followed with an RBI-single before moving to second on a wild pitch by Tom Gorzelanny. Bourn stole third with Paul Janish at the dish, and Suzuki's throw trickled away from Zimmerman to allow the speedy Bourn to score.
The win gives the Braves a much happier flight to San Francisco, where they will start a four-game series with the Giants Thursday night.
"A win like this kind of rejuvenates us," Jones said. "You keep putting pressure on yourselves to go out and end [a losing streak]. It keeps building and the frustration keeps building, and this win allows us to take a deep breath and hopefully build some momentum going out West."
The Giants are riding a three-game winning streak off a sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers to take the NL West lead by 2 1/2 games. The Braves, meanwhile, have a 3 1/2 game lead in the Wild Card over the St. Louis Cardinals.
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