B.J. Upton, left, and Chris Johnson celebrate after one of Johnson's four hits he had Sunday during a 9-0 win against the Nationals.
WASHINGTON -- It is indeed early in the season. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez made that perfectly clear after his team beat Washington 9-0 on Sunday afternoon to complete a series sweep of the division rival.
While it is still April, the sweep in front of the home crowd was significant for the Braves.
“It was good to make a statement,” said Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who had a three-run homer in the third to give the Braves a 7-0 lead. “We know the Nationals are going to be pretty good.”
Atlanta first baseman Chris Johnson (four hits) was involved in two rallies and Justin Upton also went deep in the third as the Braves (11-1) won their ninth game in a row with a 12-hit attack.
Atlanta has won its first four series of the year and is off to its best start since going 13-1 in 1994. But don’t bring up the Detroit start of 35-5 in 1984 with the red-hot Braves.
“It is early,” Gonzalez said. “It is still better than being 1-11. We still have 15 games against” Washington.
The Nationals (7-5) had won all six home games before Atlanta came to town Friday and outscored them 18-5 in the series.
The Nationals head to Florida with a record of 1-5 against the Cincinnati Reds and the Braves.
“It is still very early in the season,” Washington shortstop Ian Desmond said. “We know we are not playing our best. Like I said, it is April. Fortunately for us, it is still early.”
Atlanta had three big innings and starting pitcher Paul Maholm improved to 3-0 as the Braves won before a subdued crowd of 39,389.
“We made some nice plays behind him. He was able to keep pounding the strike zone,” Gonzalez said of Maholm.
Leadoff hitter B.J. Upton had three hits, including two doubles, and scored twice. He entered the game with an average of .105 and is now up to .163 as his team heads home to begin a series Tuesday with the Kansas City Royals.
“We are playing good baseball. Overall, man, a pretty good trip. I am just making adjustments,” B.J. Upton said of hitting leadoff.
Washington starter Gio Gonzalez (1-1) gave up a double on the first pitch of the game to B.J. Upton and was hit hard even when Atlanta made outs.
“They have a good-hitting ballclub,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said.
Maholm allowed just four hits and was replaced with two outs in the eighth after throwing 113 pitches, 75 for strikes. Luis Avilan took over for Maholm.
Atlanta’s Cory Gearrin, on his 27th birthday, came on to pitch in the ninth and retired all three batters.
The Braves built a 7-0 lead in the fourth as Justin Upton led off with his seventh homer of the year and Simmons added his first round-tripper.
Ramiro Pena then reached on a throwing error by Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman -- the third game in a row the All-Star, who had shoulder surgery in the offseason, has been charged with a throwing error.
Atlanta had taken a 3-0 lead in the first on an RBI double by rookie cleanup hitter Evan Gattis, who homered on Saturday, and two batters later Chris Johnson hit a two-run single to center.
“Johnson, I like him. He was a good pickup” in the trade with Arizona, said Johnson the manager. “Everything he seemed to hit found a hole.” Johnson is now hitting .405.
Maholm allowed no runs and two hits in the first five innings. He also singled in the sixth for his first hit of the season and scored on a double by Jason Heyward. Gattis hit a sacrifice fly to make it 9-0 in the top of the sixth.
Washington second baseman Danny Espinosa (hitting .175) was hit on the right hand on a pitch by Maholm in the second. He was checked by head trainer Lee Kuntz and stayed in the game until the fifth, when he was replaced in the field by Steve Lombardozzi.
NOTES: The Nationals placed Wilson Ramos on the 15-day disabled list and recalled catcher Jhonaton Solano from triple-A Syracuse. Ramos suffered a left hamstring strain late in Saturday’s game. Ramos was hitting .300 with two homers in six games. Solano hit .314 in 12 games with the Nationals last season. … Kurt Suzuki, who had been splitting time with Ramos, got the start at catcher for the Nationals and singled in his first at-bat.
POSEY GETS KEY HIT IN EXTRAS AS LOWLY CUBS IMPLODE LATE:
CHICAGO -- It was an unusual way to win but the San Francisco Giants aren’t complaining.
Chicago Cubs reliever Shawn Camp gave up the go-ahead run on a 10th inning balk, scoring Giants’ catcher Hector Sanchez as San Francisco went on to claim a 10-7 victory on Sunday afternoon in a wild series finale at Wrigley Field.
Camp’s balk came with Sanchez on third and Brandon Crawford at first with one out in a game that included a record five wild pitches by Chicago pitchers in one inning.
But it was Camp’s miscue that cost the Cubs a chance at victory.
“It was the first time that happened in my career,” said Camp, who had contemplated a throw to first when he was called for the costly balk. “I let the team down today and I’ve got to bounce back and not let that happen again.”
The roof caved in from there for the Chicago. Buster Posey followed with a single to center, scoring Crawford with an insurance run. Marco Scutaro then followed with a double to score Angel Pagan for a three-run lead.
The victory gave the Giants the series win, the first time they’ve taken three of four at Wrigley Field since 1999.
“You had three one-run games going into today and here you’re going into extra innings,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Exciting games. I think we all need a day off after that series.”
The balk was but one problem on a day that saw the two Cubs pitchers set a dubious record.
The Giants took advantage of Edwin Jackson’s and Michael Bowden’s lack of control during the Cubs’ sixth inning implosion to score four runs to take a 5-4 lead.
The two Cubs pitchers combined for four walks and five wild pitches in the inning as the Giants erased a 4-1 deficit.
Hunter Pence opened the inning with a walk. Jackson promptly threw the first wild pitch of the inning, and Pence took second. Following a walk to Brandon Belt, Blanco doubled Pence home.
Jackson’s second wild pitch of the inning sent Belt to third and after he walked Crawford, Jackson’s day was over.
Enter Bowden, who was just as wild.
Three wild pitches, one walk and a single later, the Giants had the lead.
“It’s inexcusable to let your team down like that when you self-imploded like that and not make an adjustment to regain control of your pitches,” Jackson said.
The Giants added a single run in the seventh. Blanco double off reliever Hector Rondon with two out, driving in Brandon Belt for a 6-4 lead.
The Cubs got one run back in the seventh on Gonzalez’ first home run of the season, sending reliever Chad Gaudin’s first pitch to left and out of the park to Waveland Avenue.
The Cubs rallied with two runs in the eighth to slip ahead of the Giants 7-6 when Alberto Gonzalez’ sacrifice to left off Giants reliever Santiago Casilla scored Alfonso Soriano with a go-ahead run.
Earlier in the inning, Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt walked Luis Valbuena to score Anthony Rizzo to tie the game.
But Camp’s bid to lock down a win in the bottom of the ninth was thwarted when Pence slammed a two-out solo home run to left, which tied the game at 7.
“I’ve made that pitch a thousand times in my career and it was just a hanging breaking ball and he hits hanging breaking balls,” Camp said. “That situation just can’t happen, it’s unacceptable and it cost us the game.”
The situation couldn’t have been more dramatic or desperate for the Giants.
“It’s hard to get bigger than that,” Bochy said. “We had two outs, two strikes; down to the last strike there and he really delivered. That’s our only hope at that point and he really knew it.”
Sergio Romo, the last of seven Giants pitchers, earned his seventh save. George Kontos, who worked one inning earned his first win of the season while Camp, the sixth of six Cubs pitchers, took the loss.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum tried to find some positives for a team that has now lost two straight and seven of nine.
“The guys battled. We had the lead, swung the bats good early and got some big hits,” he said. “Gonzalez came up big a couple of times. We (had) the lead with two outs with two strikes (in the ninth).”
NOTES: Sandoval was in Sunday’s starting lineup despite banging his shin in a ninth inning tumble over a short wall while chasing a pop foul on Saturday … The news wasn’t as good for Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a left oblique strain after striking out to end Saturday’s game … At the same time, the Cubs claimed 31-year-old right-handed pitcher Kameron Loe off waivers from Seattle. He was 1-1 with a 10.80 ERA in four relief appearances with the Mariners … Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney also expected to be activated this week from the 15-day DL. Barney has yet to play after suffering a leg injury in spring training … DeJesus, the Cubs leadoff batter had five doubles entering Sunday’s series finale, tied with five others for the National League lead … Posey was supposed to have two days off after Bochy opted to sit him Sunday. Posey’s hitting just .211 and is hitless in three games, but the Giants manager is not worried. “As you saw last year as the season went he got better and better,” said. “As the weather warms up, so does he.” Posey entered late in the game as a pinch-hitter … The Cubs are off Monday then open a three-game home interleague series with Texas with night games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Giants are also off Monday before opening a three-game set in Milwaukee.