Nationals 4-1 over Braves to earn split of four-game set in D.C., hold on to 1st in NL East

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals dropped the first two games of their four-game set with the Atlanta Braves this weekend, but with a 4-1 win today earned a split of the series and held on to first place in the NL East. Tanner Roark was a boss. Anthony Rendon kept hitting.

"He's They're not a machine(s), he's they're a man men, he's they're a man men!" Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Ervin Santana's first pitch to Anthony Rendon, who was 4 for 13 with a double and a home run in the first three games of the series, was a 95 mph fastball that went right over the Washington Nationals' third baseman's head. Rendon walked in his one-out at bat, took second on a Jayson Werth single and scored when Adam LaRoche hit a line drive to center for the second straight hit off Atlanta's starter and a 1-0 lead.

Werth took third on LaRoche's hit and scored when Ryan Zimmerman flew to deep center field in the next at bat to make it 2-0 Nationals after one in the series finale with the Braves.

Nats' catcher Sandy Leon singled to start the Nationals' fifth. A sac bunt by Tanner Roark moved Leon into scoring position and an RBI line drive to left brought him home for a 3-0 lead over the Braves after five.

Tanner Roark's outing came to an abrupt end in the sixth when he tired after two long frames in the fourth and fifth. Freddie Freeman singled to start the Braves' sixth, moved into scoring position on a walk to Evan Gattis and scored on an RBI single to right-center by Justin Upton. 3-1 Nationals. That was it for Roark.

Anthony Rendon was 1 for 3 today and 5 for 16 with two doubles and a home run in the series after he took a 96 mph 3-2 fastball from Braves' right-hander Shae Simmons to left for a one-out double in the eighth. A groundout by Jayson Werth moved Rendon to third and wild pitch from Braves' lefty Luis Avilan allowed him to score. 4-1 Nationals.

That's how it ended, 4-1 Nats. 2-2 split in the series.

4. Roark pwns Braves: Tanner Roark was pitching on eight days rest the first time he faced Atlanta this season, after a fill-in start for a sick Jordan Zimmemann in the finale of the season-opening series in New York threw his early-season schedule off.

"Ever since he's been here, whether it's out of the pen or starting, it's been quality. I can't say enough about location." -Davey Johnson on Tanner Roark, Sept 2013

The Nats' 27-year-old right-hander gave up six hits and five runs in that outing, walking one, striking out three and throwing 86 pitches in just 4 ⅔ innings on the mound.

Roark debuted in the majors against the Braves back on August 7, 2013 in the nation's capital, tossing two scoreless innings in relief, then followed that up with four scoreless in Atlanta in relief of Stephen Strasburg ten days later, when Strasburg was tossed for some HBPs in that August 17th game.

In his first career start against the Nats' NL East rivals, Roark added seven scoreless innings to his resume in a 4-0 September 17th outing in Nationals Park. Then-Nats' skipper Davey Johnson heaped praise on Roark after that game, telling reporters in the nation's capital that the pitcher was living up to the positive reports that preceded his major league debut.

"Spin [Williams] gave me good reports on him," Johnson said, relaying what the Nationals' minor league pitching coordinator told him. "Said he was a big league pitcher and I put a lot in to what he says. But ever since he's been here, whether it's out of the pen or starting, it's been quality. I can't say enough about location. Everybody's all wrapped up in the velocity, but he pitches 92-93-94 [mph], but he's got a good curve ball. Good slider. And the location is outstanding."

Roark has continued to impress in his second major league campaign.

In four starts this month, the Wilmington, Illinois-born righty is (3-1) with the only loss a hard-luck one in which he went toe-to-toe with Texas Rangers' ace Yu Darvish but came out on the losing end.

Roark has posted a 1.38 ERA with four walks (1.38 BB/9) and 23 Ks (7.96 K/9) in his last 26 IP in those four starts, over which he held opposing hitters to a combined .242/.272/.313 line.

Last time out, his pitch count was high, and he was out early after just five innings against the Houston Astros in which he allowed seven hits, two walks and one earned run.

"I couldn't get ahead, but came up with big pitches and of course we come out early and score runs so it takes a lot of weight off." -Tanner Roark on start vs Houston last time out

"It was a grind. The whole game," Roark said afterwards. "Just one of those days. So, I couldn't get ahead, but came up with big pitches and of course we come out early and score runs so it takes a lot of weight off."

Roark took the mound this afternoon in the series finale with Atlanta with a 2.55 ERA, three walks (1.52 BB/9) and 15 Ks (7.64 K/9) in four games, two starts and 17 ⅔ IP against the Braves, over which he'd held their hitters to a .172/.250/.259 line.

His 15th start of the 2014 campaign began with a fly to left...

1st: Tommy La Stella flew out to left field to start the series finale in D.C. B.J. Upton popped out to third on the next pitch. Freddie Freeman, of course, singled with two down, taking a 94 mph 3-2 fastball to right on a line. Evan Gattis stepped in with a runner on and grounded weakly to short to end a 15-pitch frame.

2nd: Jason Heyward popped to left for out no.1 in the second. Justin Upton went down swinging at an 0-2 slider outside. Chris Johnson sent a grounder back up the middle in his two-out at bat, but Ian Desmond got to it and made a kind of ridiculous spinning throw to first to end a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 frame for Roark, who was up to 25 pitches after two scoreless.

3rd: Andrelton Simmons popped out to right to start the third. An 0-2 slider got Ervin Santana swinging. Tommy La Stella's fly to left ended a quick, eight-pitch, 1-2-3 third by Roark that left him at 33 pitches total after three.

4th: B.J. Upton popped out to short to start the Braves' fourth. Freddie Freeman grounded to first and snuck one under Adam LaRoche's glove. E:3. Freeman took second on the error giving Evan Gattis a runner in scoring position. Anthony Rendon knocked down a sharp grounder from Gattis and made a strong, accurate throw to first for out no.2. Jason Heyward stepped in with two out, worked the count full and took a curve that was called ball four by home plate ump Mark Carlson. Justin Upton spit on a 1-2 curve in the dirt, but grounded into a force at second that ended a 26-pitch frame. 59 total after four scoreless.

5th: Chris Johnson singled to center to start the fifth. Jayson Werth cruised over toward the right field corner to catch a fly ball off Andrelton Simmons' bat. Ervin Santana bunted into a force at second when an aggressive Adam LaRoche cut down the lead runner. Tommy La Stella stepped in with two down and worked a 12-pitch walk. B.J. Upton stepped up with two on and two out, fell behind 0-2 quickly and K'd swinging at a 1-2 slider outside. 25-pitch frame, 84 pitches overall.

6th: Freddie Freeman singled to right to start the sixth. Evan Gattis took a five-pitch walk that got the Nationals' bullpen active. Jason Heyward flew to right for the first out of the frame, but Justin Upton's fly to right dropped in for an RBI single that got the Braves on the board, 3-1, and ended Roark's outing...

• Tanner Roark's Line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 96 P, 66 S, 6/3 GO/FO.

3. Santana Starts: In his last two starts for the Braves, 31-year-old right-hander Ervin Santana, who signed a 1-year/$14.1M deal with Atlanta this past March, gave up 15 hits and 10 runs, nine earned in 12 ⅓ IP, over which he put up a 6.57 ERA with five walks (3.65 BB/9), 13 Ks (9.49 K/9) and a .313/.377/.625 line against.

Those rough outings left the 10-year veteran with a (5-4) record after 13 starts in which he's put up a 4.12 ERA, a 3.54 FIP, 26 walks (2.82 BB/9) and 72 Ks (7.81 K/9) in 83 IP.

Santana took the mound against the Nationals for the fifth time in his career this afternoon, having put up a 3.67 ERA with 10 walks (3.33 BB/9) and 27 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 27 innings in his four career starts against Washington, over which he'd held Nats' hitters to a combined .238/.313/.436 line.

Denard Span flew out to right to start the series finale in the nation's capital, but the next three batters reached base with Anthony Rendon walking and Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche hitting back-to-back singles. LaRoche's drove Rendon in from second with his hit and the Nationals took a 1-0 lead early. Werth took third on LaRoche's single and scored on an RBI sac fly to center by Ryan Zimmermann. 2-0 Nats. 19-pitch first for Santana.

Santana bounced back with a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 second in which he collected two Ks.

Denard Span singled to start the Nats' third, took second on an errant throw on a pick attempt, third on a groundout to second by Anthony Rendon, but was stranded there two outs later as Santana completed a scoreless 18-pitch third at 50 pitches.

Danny Espinosa bunted his way on in the Nats' fourth, but he was thrown out trying to steal second on a pitch-out that ended a 12-pitch fourth for Santana, who was up to 62 pitches.

Nats' catcher Sandy Leon singled to start the home-half of the fifth, took second on a sac bunt by Tanner Roark and scored on a double to left by Denard Span. 3-0 Nationals after five.

Santana added another K for nine total and finished a 14-pitch sixth at 92 pitches.

2. Zimmerman Close?: Ryan Zimmerman was 1 for 4 in last night's win, with a swinging K in his first at bat, a line drive to left the second time up, an RBI single to center in his third AB, which drove in one of the Nationals' three runs in the 3-0 win, and a lineout to right the last time up.

After the Nats' win over the Braves, Zimmerman was 14 for 70 (.200/.263/.286) with six doubles in 18 games since coming off the DL.

"He's close. He's seeing it good. He's swinging it good. He's making good contact." -Matt Williams on Ryan Zimmerman after 1 for 4 night vs ATL

Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after the game that he saw signs that Zimmerman, after suffering a fractured thumb in early April that cost him a month-plus on the DL, is starting to turn things around at the plate.

"The one I'm most proud of is the ball that he hit to right in the last at bat," Williams said. "He lined out to left, lined out to right and got a base hit up the middle, so he's close. He's seeing it good. He's swinging it good. He's making good contact. The results haven't been there, but I can count a number of times over the last two weeks where he's had an opportunity and lined out. You can't steer it, man, you've just got to hit it, so they'll fall eventually."

Zimmerman's first fly ball of the afternoon today didn't fall in, but it was deep enough to center to allow Jayson Werth to score from third. Zim's RBI sac fly gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead early in the series finale with Atlanta.

A quick, three-pitch K left Zimmerman 0 for 1 with a sac fly after two trips to the plate.

A groundout to short in the sixth left Zimmerman 0 for 2 w/ a sac fly.

1. The Wrap-Up: Craig Stammen inherited two runners from Tanner Roark when he took over on the mound with one out in the top of the sixth. Chris Johnson K'd on a check swing when first base ump Chris Welke punched him out. Johnson got himself ejected arguing the call. Andrelton Simmons' grounded into a force at second to end the inning and the threat.

Stammen came back out for the seventh and retired the Braves in order on seven pitches.

Atlanta's right-hander Shae Simmons, gave up a leadoff double by Danny Espinosa, but one out later Espi was doubled up off second on a line drive to Tommy LaStella off Greg Dobbs' bat.

Tyler Clippard got one out with one pitch when Freddie Freeman lined out to center. Evan Gattis grounded out to short and Jason Heyward grounded to second to end an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 frame for the Nats' right-handed reliever.

Anthony Rendon doubled to left on a 96 mph full-count fastball from Simmons with one down in the eighth and took third on a groundout by Jayson Werth before scoring on a wild pitch from Luis Avilan to Adam LaRoche to make it a 4-1 game in the nation's capital.

"Pitch it, Soriano! Pitch it, Soriano! Strike'em out, Soriano! Strike'em out, Soriano!" Nats' closer Rafael Soriano came out in the ninth looking for save no.17 of 2014 and retired the Braves in order. Ballgame.

4-1 final.

Work's done! Untuck that jersey, son!!

Nationals now 39-35

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