Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta
WASHINGTON -- When his batting average dipped to .173 on July 4 and every hard-hit ball seemingly turned into an out, Dan Uggla never lost faith that he would pull out of his horrific slump.
That is precisely what happened, in extraordinary fashion.
Uggla homered and extended his career-best hitting streak to 25 games, Freddie Freeman had two hits and two RBIs, and the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 Wednesday to avoid a three-game sweep.
Uggla went 2 for 4, including a three-run drive that put the Braves up 6-0 in the fifth inning. His hitting streak is Atlanta's longest since Marquis Grissom put together a 28-game run in 1996.
In his first 86 games, Uggla had 12 homers and 29 RBIs. During his streak, he's batting .354 with 11 home runs and 23 RBIs.
"The first couple months, I was hitting the ball hard but had some awful, awful luck," Uggla said. "You stay positive, keep grinding out some at-bats, get a couple to fall through, get a little confidence going and keep going from there."
No one in the majors currently has a longer hitting streak.
"It's just a matter of time," he said. "There was a never a time that I believed what was going on the first couple of months was going to continue."
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez felt the same way about Uggla, who joined the Braves during the offseason after a successful five-year run with Florida.
"You don't explain it. You believe the back of the baseball card. You believe the history," Gonzalez said. "For whatever reason, who knows, we're all human, maybe the first two months there was some anxiety or pressure about coming over to a new organization. "
Uggla isn't the only Atlanta player with a sizzling bat. Freeman has hit in 18 consecutive games, the longest streak in the majors this season by a rookie.
"(Uggla) and Freeman are both hot as firecrackers," Gonzalez said.
Jayson Werth homered and Ryan Zimmerman had two hits for the Nationals, whose four-game winning streak ended.
Braves rookie Brandon Beachy (5-2) took a four-hit shutout into the sixth but failed to get another out. A walk, two singles, two wild pitches and a two-run homer by Werth pulled Washington to 6-4, and after reliever Anthony Varvaro walked Laynce Nix, rain delayed the game for 22 minutes.
"The rain didn't help us any," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Atlanta held on, remaining one of only two teams in the majors (with Philadelphia) that haven't been swept this season in a series of at least three games.
Rookie Craig Kimbrel, the fourth Braves reliever, worked a perfect ninth for his 32nd save in 37 tries
Washington starter Chien-Ming Wang (0-2), making his second start in his return from a shoulder operation in July 2009, allowed six runs and seven hits in five innings. Four of the runs were unearned, the result of his own miscue in Atlanta's four-run fifth.
"Everything was a lot crisper. He looked stronger," Johnson said. "I thought his ball was moving more. I was pleased."
Wang was better than in his debut, but not good enough.
"I didn't complete my job today," he said through an interpreter. "I didn't help the team to win the game."
The fifth inning began with a throwing error by Wang, which enabled Beachy to reach second base. Beachy was eventually thrown out at the plate while trying to score on a one-out grounder to third. But Freeman followed with an RBI single and Uggla drove a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats. It was his 23rd homer and third in two games.
"Just that one pitch changed the game," Wang said.
Washington relievers pitched four perfect innings, but by then the damage had been done.
The Braves jumped on top with a two-run first inning ignited by newcomer Michael Bourn, obtained Sunday in a five-player trade with Houston. After getting a leadoff single, Bourne notched his major-league leading 40th stolen base before scoring on a groundout by Freeman. Uggla then beat out a bouncer to third, advanced on a walk and came home on a two-out single by Alex Gonzalez
Beachy, who blanked Florida on two hits over 7 1-3 innings in his previous outing, extended his run of success until stumbling in the fifth. He allowed four runs and seven hits in five-plus innings.
NOTES: Zimmerman has hit in 12 straight games, the team's longest streak of the year. He has seven multi-hit games during that span. ... Freeman has reached base in 40 of his last 44 games. ... The Braves get Thursday off before opening a three-game road series against the New York Mets. ... After a 4-5 homestand, the Nationals send Ross Detwiler (1-0) to the mound Thursday night to open a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies. Detwiler, who is usually used out of the bullpen, will be making his first start since July 5.