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Braves 3-1 over Nationals: Alex Wood K's 12 in series finale in Turner Field

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A tightly-contested rubber match between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves was decided by a mental error on Gio Gonzalez's part. Braves' lefty Alex Wood struck out 12 to lead the Braves to a 3-1 win in the finale of the three-game set.

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Scott Cunningham

NL East Sunday Night Rubber Match Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Atlanta Braves' lefty Alex Wood and Washington Nationals' southpaw Gio Gonzalez matched each other in tonight's rubber match in Turner Field with three scoreless each, but Ian Desmond started the scoring with a solo blast in the first at bat of the fourth. Desmond's 19th HR of 2014 came on a 1-1 fastball from Wood that ended up in the right field seats for an opposite field home run and a 1-0 Nats' lead.

Justin Upton battled Gonzalez for 10 pitches in the first at bat of the Braves' fourth and tied it up with one swing, sending a screaming liner out to left that cleared the fence for a solo blast that made it a 1-1 game. The hit was the 1,000th of Upton's major league career and he collected his 500th RBI on the hit. Congrats, I guess.

The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Emilio Bonifacio scored from third on a two-out grounder to second by Jason Heyward on which Gio Gonzalez failed to get over to cover first.

Evan Gattis hit a two-out RBI single to right off Nats' lefty Jerry Blevins to give the Braves a 3-1 lead after eight.

That's how it ended... 3-1 Braves final.

4.Gio? (0-4)?: In his last 9 ⅔ IP, 28-year-old Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez has given up 14 hits, three walks and nine runs, all earned in back-to-back losses to the Phillies and Mets. Gonzalez hasn't won a start since July 5th when he shut the Chicago Cubs out over eight strong innings on the mound in the nation's capital. Since then, however, the third-year Nats' starter is (0-4) in five starts with Washington 1-4 when he's taken the mound in the last month-plus.

"Triple. Double to left and that was it. After that the pitcher gets a base hit on a broken bat, so just tip your cap, that's sometimes how the ball rolls." -Gio Gonzalez on outing vs the Mets

Gonzalez has put up a 5.40 ERA over that stretch, with 11 walks (3.71 BB/9) and 28 Ks (9.45 K/9) in 26 ⅔ IP in which opposing hitters have put up a .269/.339/.375 line against him.

After he gave up six hits, two walks and four earned runs in this past week's start against New York in D.C., Gonzalez said he just has to be better. Period.

"You've got to pitch better," he told reporters. "That's the best I can tell you right now. You can't walk anybody. You've got to pitch better. If you want to win this game, you have to try to be better than the other pitcher."

Gonzalez was, however, happy that he was able to last as long as he did after he was knocked out before finishing the fourth in two of his previous three starts.

"To see myself in the seventh inning with like 80-something pitches is definitely an improvement," Gonzalez said. "It's moving forward and keep going forward from there."

He had to take the next step forward against the Atlanta Braves though, against whom Gonzalez has struggled over the course of his career, going (2-7) with a 5.31 ERA, 32 walks (4.99 BB//9) and 63 Ks (9.83 K/9) in 57 ⅔ in which Atlanta's hitters have put up a combined .250/.349/.417 line against him.

In Turner Field before tonight, the Nats' southpaw was (2-4) in seven starts with a 4.83 ERA, 25 walks (5.49 BB/9) and 50 Ks (10.98 K/9) in 41 IP in which Braves' hitters have put a .230/.341/.399 line against him.

On the year, Gonzalez was (3-5) in nine starts away from the nation's capital before taking the mound in Atlanta, with a 3.51 ERA (vs a 4.60 ERA at home), a 3.47 FIP (vs 2.62 in D.C.), 23 walks (3.67 BB/9), 59 Ks (9.43 K/9) and a .217/.304/.393 line against in 56 ⅓ IP (vs a .247/.322/.347 line against in 47 IP at home in Nationals Park).

Tonight in Atlanta, Gonzalez's 19th start of the season began with a swinging K...

1st: Emilio Bonifacio K'd swinging through a high, 92 mph 1-2 fastball for the first out of the Braves' first. Gonzalez lost Braves' second baseman Tommy La Stella and walked the rookie infielder in front of Freddie Freeman, whose line drive single through the right side put two on with one out. Justin Upton chased a 94 mph 2-2 fastball up out of the zone for out and K no.2. Jason Heyward stepped in with two on and two out and walked to load'em up for Chris Johnson, who fell behind 0-2 quickly and K'd swinging at a 1-2 fastball inside. 29-pitch first for Gonzalez.

2nd: Gerald Laird K'd swinging through an 0-2 fastball. Ramiro Pena K'd chasing an 0-2 fastball out of zone outside. Alex Wood's swinging K ended 13-pitch frame. 42 total for Gio after two, 6 Ks.

3rd: Emilio Bonifacio grounded out to third. Tommy La Stella sent a fly to Bryce Harper in left. Freddie Freeman worked the count full, but K'd swinging to end a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. 55 total, 7 Ks.

4th: Justin Upton battled for 10 pitches and tied it up with one swinging, taking a 3-2 change out to left for his own solo blast a half-inning after Ian Desmond gave the Nats the lead. Jason Heyward grounded out to first. Chris Johnson singled up the middle, by Gonzalez on the mound and Danny Espinosa at second. Gerald Laird singled on a line drive to left to put two on with one out. Ramiro Pena lined out to right for the second out of the frame. Alex Wood fell behind 0-2 quickly and K'd swinging on an 0-2 curve to end a 33-pitch frame that left Gonzalez at 88 overall after four.

5th: Emilio Bonifacio reached on a bunt single in the first at bat of the Braves' fifth. Tommy La Stella took the third walk of the night from Gonzalez, who was up to 96 pitches after the free pass. Freddie Freeman grounded into a 4-6-3 DP on a 91 mph 2-2 fastball. Justin Upton worked the count full, and walked on Gonzalez's 108th pitch. Jason Heyward grounded to second, by a lunging Adam LaRoche to Danny Espinosa, but Gonzalez failed to get over to cover the bag. Infield single. Bonifacio scores from third. 2-1 Braves. That was it for Gio...

Gio Gonzalez's Line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 111 P, 71 S, 3/2 GO/FO.

3. Wood vs Washington: In eight starts and 49 ⅓ IP since he moved back into the rotation in late June, 23-year-old Braves' 2012 2nd Round pick Alex Wood is (2-3) with Atlanta 3-5 in his starts, over which he's put up a 2.92 ERA with 15 walks (2.73 BB/9), 44 Ks (8.03 K/9) and a .239/.300/.344 line against.

Two of Wood's 15 starts this season came against the Nationals early in April when he faced Washington in back-to-back starts, giving up 10 hits and three earned runs in 12 innings pitched in home-and-home starts in Nationals Park and then Turner Field. Wood won the outing in Atlanta, striking out eight in five innings of work in which he surrendered six hits, three walks and just one earned run.

At home in Turner Field this season, Wood was (4-5) in 12 games and seven starts with a 3.00 ERA, a 3.16 FIP, 10 walks (1.88 BB/9) and 55 Ks (10.31 K/9) in 48 IP over which he's held visiting teams to a .255/.301/.391 line.

Wood gave up a one-out single to left by Anthony Rendon in the first inning of his third start of the season against the Nationals, and had Rendon steal second with two down (SB no.12), but the Nats' first runner was stranded when Adam LaRoche K'd swinging to end a 16-pitch frame.

Ian Desmond lined a single through the right side to start the Nationals' second. Tommy La Stella booted a grounder to second off Bryce Harper's bat on what looked like a tailor-made DP, putting two on with no one out, but the next three Nationals went down swinging in a 22-pitch frame by Wood, who was up to 38 pitches total after two.

Jayson Werth walked with two down in the third, but was stranded when Adam LaRoche K'd swinging for the second time in two at bats. 17-pitch frame, 55 total after three.

Ian Desmond got the Nationals on the board with an opposite field solo blast on a 1-1 fastball from Wood in the first at bat of the fourth. No.19 of 2014 for Desmond made it a 1-0 game. The next three Nationals went down in order in a 13-pitch frame that left Wood at 68 total after four.

Denard Span doubled with one down in the top of the fifth, leaving him 1 for 3 tonight and extending his current hit streak to 14-straight games and his on-base streak to 36 games. It was double no.31 of 2014 for Span, but he was stranded at second two outs later as Wood completed a scoreless frame by striking out Adam LaRoche once again. 17-pitch frame. 85 pitches total for Wood after five.

Wood added two Ks in a 16-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth that left him with 11 Ks overall and 101 pitches on the night.

Denard Span doubled with two down in the Nationals' seventh, but Anthony Rendon's fly to right left the Nationals 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position tonight. Wood's 13-pitch frame left him at 114 overall on the night.

Alex Wood came back out for the eighth at 114 pitches and walked Jayson Werth to start the frame, but the Braves' lefty struck Adam LaRoche out for the fourth time tonight in his final at bat of the night.

Alex Wood's Line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 12 Ks, 1 HR, 124 P, 78 S, 5/5 GO/FO.

2. No.18: Nationals' Assistant GM and VP of Player Development Doug Harris talked about outfield prospect Michael Taylor, who was called up today, with MLB Network Radio host Grant Paulsen this morning, before the Nationals officially announced that the 23-year-old '09 6th Round pick arrived in Atlanta in time to join the big league club for the series finale with the Braves.

"Early in the year you started seeing some day-to-day things and now he's at the point where he's making adjustments at-bat-to-at-bat or even pitch-to-pitch..." - Doug Harris on Nats' prospect Michael Taylor

Taylor put together a strong campaign at High-A Potomac in his fourth season in the Nats' system in 2013, posting a .263/.340/.426 line with 41 doubles, 10 HRs and 51 stolen bases in 133 games and 581 plate appearances, but this year the outfielder's taken it to another level. Before he was promoted from Double to Triple-A Syracuse earlier this week, Taylor put up a .313/.396/.539 line with 17 doubles, 22 HRs and 34 stolen bases in 98 games and 441 plate appearances for the Harrisburg Senators.

"He's put together a really good year," Harris said. "In the past it would take Michael a few days to make adjustments. Early in the year you started seeing some day-to-day things and now he's at the point where he's making adjustments at-bat-to-at-bat or even pitch-to-pitch and that is what has allowed him to have the success he's had this year."

Taylor sent out a message on Twitter once he got to Atlanta, expressing his excitement about getting the call:

Taylor was in uniform tonight, but never made it into the game.

1. The Wrap-Up: Craig Stammen took over for Gio Gonzalez with two on and two out in the fifth and got out no.3 with help from Bryce Harper, who made a sliding catch at the line in deep left on a foul ball off Chris Johnson's bat.

2-1 Braves after five in Turner Field.

Stammen came back out for the Braves' sixth and gave up a two-out single by Alex Wood, but nothing else in a scoreless inning of work.

Jerry Blevins had his curve working and he struck out the side in a quick, 14-pitch frame in the seventh.

The Nats' lefty gave up a one-out walk and a two-out single in the Braves' eighth, and the Braves added an insurance run when Evan Gattis poked an RBI single into short right to bring Chris Johnson in to make it a 3-1 game.

Craig Kimbrel came out looking for his 34th save of the 2014 season and retired the Nationals in order.

Nationals now 63-52