Harper, Zimmerman homer as Nats beat Braves
Ryan Zimmerman had three extra-base hits and drove in three runs, Bryce Harper had two hits and drove in two and rookie Jefry Rodriguez picked up his first big league win as the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 8-3 on Tuesday afternoon in the first of a day-night doubleheader.
Rodriquez (1-1), in his fourth start for the Nationals, gave up just one run and three hits with no walks in five innings before Matt Grace took over in the sixth. Grace gave up an RBI single to Nick Markakis in the sixth as the Braves trimmed the lead to 4-2, but the Nationals added four runs in the sixth for an 8-2 bulge.
Rookie left fielder Juan Soto reached base all five times for Washington with two hits and three walks while Zimmerman and Harper each hit homers.
Washington (58-54) is now four games over .500 for the first time since June 26 and has won nine of its last 12 contests. More importantly, the Nationals are 3.5 games back of the second-place Braves (60-49) and five games behind first-place Philadelphia, which plays Tuesday night at first-place Arizona.
The Braves took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single in the fourth by Johan Camargo, as Braves star Freddie Freeman slid home just before a throw to home from left fielder Soto.
The Nationals scored four runs in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead.
Harper and Ryan Zimmerman hit back-to-back solo homers with no outs.
Later in the inning, Rodriguez doubled for his first big league hit and Trea Turner and Soto followed with two-out RBI singles for a 4-1 advantage.
It was the 27th homer of the year for Harper, who is hitting better than .400 with three homers in his last 42 at-bats.
Anthony Rendon had a sacrifice fly, Harper had an RBI single and Zimmerman drove in two with a double in the sixth.
Max Fried (1-5), the Atlanta starting pitcher, had to leave with a left groin strain after allowing no runs and one hit in the first two innings. He was hit on a shot back to the box by Spencer Kieboom to end the last of the second.
Koby Allard came on to pitch in the third for the Braves and gave up all four runs in the fourth inning, including the two homers.
That outburst by Washington helped make up for a lost opportunity in the last of the third inning for the Nationals.
With Turner on first and one out, Soto hit a long fly ball to center field. The ball bounced off the glove of Atlanta’s Ender Inciarte and was caught on the rebound by left fielder Adam Duvall.
But replays showed that the blast by Soto hit off the fence before it was caught by Duvall. However, the umpires ruled Soto out for passing Turner on the bases, and Turner remained at first with two outs.
So instead of having two runners on base and one out, the Nationals had one runner on with two outs. The next batter, Rendon, lined out to short to end the inning.
The Nationals bullpen continues to get a makeover, as veteran right-handed reliever Greg Holland was signed by the club before the game. He came into pitch in the top of the seventh with the Nationals ahead 8-2.
Holland began this season with the St. Louis Cardinals and was 0-2 with a 7.92 ERA in 32 games before he was released August 1.
“I don’t know, it hasn’t went well,” Holland told reporters of his season before the game. “But sometimes that happens. People struggle sometimes. So I’m excited. Kind of a fresh start on a new team, helping this club get to where it wants to go.”
To make room for Holland the Nationals sent right-handed pitcher Jimmy Cordero to Triple-A Syracuse of the International League. The Nationals began Tuesday with a team ERA of 3.82, the sixth-best mark in the National League.
NOTES: On August 7, 2007, Barry Bonds set a record with his 756th career home run against Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik in San Francisco ... The second game of the day-night doubleheader is slated to begin at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday with Max Scherzer pitching for the Nationals against Sean Newcomb of the Braves ... The series continues Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. with lefty Tommy Milone (1-0, 3.00) going against righty Mike Foltynewicz (8-7, 3.04) of the Braves.