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Nationals 8-2 over Braves: Bryce Harper 3 for 4; 33rd HR, two doubles in win

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A four-run fourth inning gave the Washington Nationals all they needed in an 8-2 win over the Atlanta Braves, who dropped their 11th straight game overall and their third straight in the nation's capital. Bryce Harper hit his 33rd HR.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

5. GIO vs ATL: Gio Gonzalez entered tonight's matchup with the Atlanta Braves winless in his last four starts at (0-3), with an 8.35 ERA and a .333/.384/.507 line against in 18 ⅓ innings pitched over that stretch, which followed a streak of eight starts without a loss, over which the 29-year-old left-hander was (5-0) with Washington 5-3 in his outings, in which he posted a 1.48 ERA and a .245/.296/.326 line against in 48 ⅔ IP.

Tonight in the nation's capital, Gonzalez was facing the Nationals' NL East rivals from Atlanta for the second time this season after beating them on May 8th, giving up five hits, a walk and two earned runs in seven innings of work in a 9-2 win.

"Feeling for the strike zone a little bit tonight, but as he got through that, the last inning and two innings, he really turned up the fastball and let her fly..." -Matt Williams on Gio Gonzalez vs the Braves earlier this season

The two earned runs and four of the five hits came in the first three innings, but Gonzalez shut the Braves down the rest of the way, allowing just one hit after the third.

"Last couple of innings he really turned it up with the fastball," Matt Williams told reporters after the game. "Again, he was feeling for it early, I think the first three innings [he threw] about 50 pitches, and [was] feeling for the strike zone a little bit tonight, but as he got through that, the last inning and two innings, he really turned up the fastball and let her fly and his curveball was better too."

"First three or four innings about 90 [mph], and then the last couple 93-94," the second-year skipper explained.

"He seemed as if he got loose and was able to just let it fly. He had situation there in the seventh where he had to work through a couple of guys with a guy on second base and made pitches when he needed to."

That outing left the left-hander (3-8) in 12 starts against the Braves in his career with 4.93 ERA and a .251/.348/.413 line against in 69 ⅓ IP.

He took the mound tonight (9-7) on the year with a 4.13 ERA, a 3.20 FIP, 53 walks (3.37 BB/9), 127 Ks (8.07 K/9) and a .277/.345/.400 line against in 141 ⅔ innings.

Gonzalez issued back-to-back walks in the top of the first, putting Pedro Ciriaco and Freddie Freeman on, but Nick Swisher grounded into what looked like an inning-ending 5-3 until Yunel Escobar threw wide to first, E:5.

Cameron Maybin got a two-out opportunity because of the error, but grounded out to short to end a 21-pitch first.

Back-to-back Ks ended a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 second for Gonzalez, who was up to 30 total after two. A 15-pitch, 1-2-3 third left him at 45 pitches.

Given a 4-0 lead to work with, Gonzalez retired the Braves in order, striking out two in a 15-pitch fourth that left him at 60 pitches and six Ks.

With the score 6-0 after four, Gonzalez worked around a leadoff walk for a scoreless 16-pitch fifth. 76 total.

Nick Markakis singled to right-center to start the top of the sixth with the first hit of the night by the Braves.

Nick Swisher sent a two-out single to left before Gonzalez walked Michael Bourn to load the bases with his 27th pitch of the inning and 103nd of the night.

Andrelton Simmons stepped in with the bases loaded and two out and grounded into a force at second that ended a 30-pitch frame. 106 total.

Gio Gonzalez's Line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 10 Ks, 106 P, 63 S, 5/1 GO/FO.

4. Miller Time: Atlanta Braves' right-hander Shelby Miller faced the Washington Nationals in back-to-back starts in late June.

In the first outing, in Nationals Park, the 24-year-old '09 St. Louis Cardinals' 1st Round pick, acquired from the Cards in the Jason Heyward trade this winter, went seven innings, striking out five and giving up three hits, a walk and an earned run in a 2-1 loss in which he received no decision.

"It's difficult because he's got such an exploding fastball and he's really stingy with his runs, so for us to put up four in the first was important." -Matt Williams after facing Shelby Miller earlier this season

Six days later, in Turner Field, Miller was knocked out after five innings in which he gave up eight hits, three walks and five runs, four earned, while striking out ten, in a 6-1 loss to Atlanta's NL East rivals.

The Nationals scored four runs in the first inning of that start, getting to Miller early, which Nats' skipper Matt Williams said was important.

"It's nice to do that in the first inning against anybody," he said, "but especially somebody as good as Shelby because he's very stingy the later the game goes."

In an MLB Network Radio interview the next morning he talked about the difficulty of facing Miller again.

"It's difficult because he's got such an exploding fastball and he's really stingy with his runs," Williams said, "so for us to put up four in the first was important."

Miller came back to the nation's capital tonight winless in his last nineteen starts going back to May 17th, with an (0-11) record over the stretch in spite of the fact that he posted a 3.13 ERA and a .257/.322/.374 line against in 118 IP.

His third start of the year against the Nationals began with a quick, eight-pitch, 1-2-3 first in which he recorded two Ks. A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Miller at 17 pitches after six straight outs.

Ian Desmond "doubled" to center to start the third on a pop that Cameron Maybin lost in the twilight. Desmond took third on a groundout to short by Wilson Ramos and he scored one out later on a wild pitch to Jayson Werth. 1-0.

Jayson Werth hit a ground-rule double to left-center for the first legit hit, and scored on a single to left off Anthony Rendon's bat, 2-0.

Bryce Harper battled for ten pitches in the next at bat, and took advantage of a second chance on a catchable foul pop off third that Hector Olivera missed to hit his 33 HR of the season into the Red Porch seats. Two-run blast, 4-0 Nats. 38-pitch frame, 55 total.

Clint Robinson walked but was forced out at second on a Yunel Escobar grounder, and Escobar took third on a double to left by Ian Desmond.

Wilson Ramos stepped in with runners on the corners and hit a dribbler in front of home. Escobar to score when he avoided Braves' catcher Christian Bethancourt's tag and Ian Desmond scored when Bethancourt tossed the ball by Miller and the plate. 6-0 Nats. 25-pitch frame, 80 total after four.

Bryce Harper doubled to center to start the Nationals' half of the fifth, taking a 94 mph 3-2 fastball for a ride and scored on an RBI single to left by Ryan Zimmerman, 7-0. A walk to Clint Robinson ended Miller's night.

Shelby Miller's Line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 94 P, 59 S, 7/2 GO/FO.

3. Random Game Notes: Heading into tonight's matchup with the Braves, Bryce Harper has reached base in 15 of his last 16 games, with hits in 13 of the 16, going 19 for 49 over that stretch with six doubles, two home runs and 18 walks.

• Harper started the night ranked first in the NL in AVG (.333), OBP (.467), SLG (.634) and runs scored (98) as well as Wins Above Replacement (8.0 fWAR).

• Ryan Zimmerman started the night with a nine-game hit streak.

• In today's Nationals-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Jayson Werth is 21 for 63 (.333/.400/.603) with six doubles, a triple, three home runs, seven walks and 14 runs scored in his last 15 games.

• In a bonus "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Ian Desmond has a .293/.358/.535 line, six  doubles, a triple, 10 home runs, 16 walks and seven stolen bases in his last 43 games going back to July 20th.

• With the two losses in the first two games in D.C., the Braves have lost ten straight.

• The Braves have allowed 15 of more runs 13 times in 3,955 games since the start of the 1991 season, with three of those games in the last seven games.

• In today's Braves-themed "Fun with Arbitrary End Points" segment, Nick Markakis has hit safely in 33 of his last 40 games, going 53 for 167 over that stretch (.317 AVG).

2. Turning Point(s): Shelby Miller retired the first six batters he faced on just 17 pitches, but a pop to short-center in the third led to the Nationals' first run. Ian Desmond sent a 96 mph 2-2 fastball to center field, but Braves' outfielder Cameron Maybin never saw it so it fell in for a hit. A groundout put Desmond on third before a wild pitch from Miller brought him in to make it 1-0 early in the third of four for the Braves in Nats Park. Jayson Werth doubled in the next at bat and scored on an Anthony Rendon single. 2-0 Nationals. Bryce Harper followed with a two-out, two-run home run to left-center to make it 4-0 after three in D.C.

1. The Wrap-Up: Danny Burawa took over for Shelby Miller with a runner on and one out in the fifth and recorded two quick outs to keep it at 7-0 Nationals.

Casey Janssen retired the Braves in order in a 15-pitch seventh.

Anthony Rendon singled and took third on a double to right by Bryce Harper in the bottom of the seventh. Braves' lefty Ross Detwiler got a groundout to short from Ryan Zimmerman, but Rendon scored. 8-0.

Ryan Kelly came on for Atlanta with a runner on third and two out and got a fly to right from Yunel Escobar to end the seventh.

Nick Markakis reached on an error by Trea Turner, took second on a passed ball and third on a single to right by Freddie Freeman with Matt Grace on the mound in the eighth. Nick Swisher's RBI double drove Markakis in, 8-1.

Freeman scored on a sac fly by Michael Bourn to make it 8-2, so Matt Williams went to the pen for Blake Treinen, who got the final out of the frame.

Treinen came back out for the ninth and worked around a leadoff single by Hector Olivera and a two-out walk by Nick Markakis for a scoreless frame. Ballgame. 8-2 final.

Nationals now 70-65