Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was nearly flawless in the top of the ninth to get his 29th straight save, ending the game with a strikeout of Nationals star Bryce Harper on a checked-swing third strike. (Reuters News Service)
ATLANTA — Neither the Washington Nationals nor Gio Gonzalez have fared well against the Atlanta Braves this season.
Gonzalez lost his fourth straight to Atlanta, and the Braves improved to 12-4 against the Nationals with a 2-1 victory on Sunday at Turner Field.
The Braves scored their runs off Gonzalez (7-6) in the first inning and Julio Teheran (10-6) claimed the victory with six scoreless innings as Atlanta won its seventh straight series.
Craig Kimbrel, who last blew a save on May 7, pitched around the third hit of the game by Denard Span in the ninth for his 29th consecutive conversion, striking out Bryce Harper to wrap up his 39th save.
The Braves are 44-18 at home and have a 15 1/2-game lead over the second-place Nationals in the National League East.
Unlike the first two games of the series, this one didn’t include controversy or extra innings.
The Braves, who lost a 15-inning marathon late Saturday night, scored twice in the first inning on three singles and a walk, with Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson getting the RBI hits.
B.J. Upton walked leading off against Gonzalez and swiped second before rookie Phil Gosselin dropped down a bunt for his first major league hit. Freeman followed with a single to score Upton and Gosselin came in on Johnson’s single after a double play
Gonzalez stiffened after that, though, during his seven-inning outing. The left-hander allowed just two more hits, one a double by Freeman, and three walks while finishing with nine strikeouts.
Teheran, who had ignited the bad blood between the Nationals and Braves by hitting Harper after a homer in Washington on Aug. 6, battled through repeated jams while pitching his six scoreless innings.
The rookie right-hander, who struck out five, allowed five hits, walked three and hit a batter. But the Nationals left nine runners on base against him.
Washington got the first two batters on in each of the three opening innings against Teheran and couldn’t move any of them up. The Nationals also wasted a two-out double by Harper in the fifth and left two on in the sixth after a double by Chad Tracy with two outs.
Washington scored in the seventh against the Atlanta bullpen but squandered a chance for a bigger inning. After Scott Downs allowed a hit and a walk, David Carpenter gave up a run-scoring single to Jayson Werth.
Adam LaRoche, though, struck out into an inning-ending double play when catcher Gerald Laird gunned down Werth trying to steal second.
NOTES: Washington’s 8-7 victory in 15 innings over the Braves on Saturday night took five hours and 29 minutes, making it the longest game in the Nationals’ nine-year history. Each team used nine pitchers and there were 513 pitches thrown. … RHP Brandon Beachy will be moved up to start for the Braves on Tuesday night against the Mets in New York after RHP Kris Medlen pitched three innings in relief against the Nationals and took the loss on LaRoche’s homer in the 15th inning. … The first pitch was delayed 39 minutes on Sunday because of a pregame downpour. … LF Justin Upton, RF Jason Heyward, C Brian McCann and SS Andrelton Simmons were all out of the Braves’ starting lineup. … Sunday was LF/C Evan Gattis’ 27th birthday. … Braves LHP Paul Maholm (wrist) pitched 5 2/3 innings in a minor league rehab start for Class A Rome on Saturday night, allowing four hits and a run while walking none and striking out six.