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Ankiel's slam sends Nats past Braves

Photo by John Millikan

Photo by John Millikan

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Since Davey Johnson became the manager of the Washington Nationals, he had been waiting for his team to muscle up. On Tuesday night, they finally did.

Rick Ankiel hit a grand slam and the Nationals had three homers in all while posting a 9-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves for their fourth straight win.

"This is my kind of game. I haven't had any there in five weeks," Johnson said. "I've been waiting for one like this."

Ankiel connected in Washington's five-run fourth inning against Derek Lowe (6-10), giving the Nationals a 6-3 lead. Ankiel also went deep twice Monday night against the Braves and has six homers on the year.

"Ankiel is swinging it pretty good right now," said Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team has dropped three straight.

"We're not making pitches and we're paying for it right now with him at the plate."

Since Johnson arrived in Washington, he's been adamant about wanting a team that hits long balls and makes other teams uncomfortable.

"He's an offensive guy," Ankiel said. "I know he likes to pound guys and score runs."

Ian Desmond hit a two-run homer in the fifth that finished Lowe, who has dropped his last three starts. The right-hander gave up eight runs, seven earned, and 10 hits.

"Today was a lot of mistakes over the middle of the plate, and not really quality pitches," Lowe said.

"It's been a tough stretch. Long year. But you've got to keep fighting, hopefully things will turn around. But it's definitely one of my longer years in my career."

Michael Morse hit Washington's final homer of the night, a solo drive off Cristhian Martinez in the sixth. It was his 18th of the season.

"Davey wants to see the ball get hit out of the ballpark," Desmond said. "The last time he managed in the big leagues, there were at least two or three every night. A real different ballgame now."

Desmond drove in three runs.

"This is what this club is capable of doing. Everyone starts getting that fever -- that hitting fever -- it's fun," said Johnson, who became Washington's manager on June 27. "The talent's been there."

Dan Uggla (24 games) and Freddie Freeman (17) extended their hitting streaks for the Braves. Those are the two longest current streaks in the majors.

John Lannan (8-7) struck out a season-high eight and improved to 3-0 against Atlanta this year. He gave up three runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings.

Desmond's sacrifice fly put the Nationals ahead in the second.

Atlanta scored twice in the third on Michael Bourn's RBI double and Martin Prado's infield out, and took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on Jorge Constanza's RBI single.

NOTES: It was Ankiel's second career slam. ... Atlanta 3B Chipper Jones worked out before the game and said he wasn't ready to start. Jones, who strained his right quad on July 25, has been restricted to pinch-hitting since then. "I need to see what I can and can't do just to give them feedback and see where I still have pain," Jones said. He said he hasn't noticed any improvement since Monday. ... Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg, recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw 51 pitches in a simulated game in Viera, Fla. ... The Nationals recalled RHP Collin Balester from Triple-A Syracuse. ... Washington C Ivan Rodriguez (oblique) is close to being ready for a rehab assignment, Johnson said. ... Atlanta RHP Brandon Beachy is scheduled to start on Wednesday afternoon against Chien-Ming Wang. Beachy is 4-2 this season and is looking for his second straight victory after not winning his previous four starts. Wang started for the first time in more than two years on July 29 against the New York Mets and allowed six runs -- four earned -- in four innings. ... Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 11 games.