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Braves drop first game to Nats this season

Braves left fielder Justin Upton reacts to a strike out in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday. Atlanta struck out nine times in the 2-0 loss.

Braves left fielder Justin Upton reacts to a strike out in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday. Atlanta struck out nine times in the 2-0 loss.

Braves: McCann may be in Monday’s lineup

ATLANTA — Soon, maybe as early as Monday, catcher Brian McCann will complete his return from October shoulder surgery and re-join the Braves.

McCann said he’ll come back with a different perspective after his rehabilitation program took him through extended spring training and the minor leagues.

“It brought back a lot of memories from going through the system,” McCann said Monday at Turner Field, where he caught right-hander Brandon Beachy’s live batting practice session. “I saw a lot of the coaches that coached me coming up through the system. It hit me how hard it is to get where we are at. I’m taking a positive out of all of this.”

McCann’s journey back to the Braves lineup isn’t quite over. He caught for Class-A Rome Wednesday before playing with Triple-A Gwinnett from today though Sunday.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the team would evaluate McCann Sunday but that he’s open to McCann joining the Braves in Cincinnati on Monday for the start of a 10-game trip.

As far as McCann is concerned, he’ll be ready.

“The way I feel, six months out, I feel really happy about it,” McCann said. “The way I am throwing is basically the same before I got hurt. The ball is coming out great. Now it’s just going to be a matter of catching innings and get up to the speed of the game.”

McCann plans to catch back-to-back games at some point this week as he works on getting back in game shape. He said that’s the only issue at this point.

“I’ve tested my arm as much as I can possibly test it, woke up the next day and felt the same as the day before,” he said.

Once McCann returns to form, it will add more pop to a Braves lineup that already has plenty. McCann is a five-time winner of the NL Silver Slugger award for his position with a career OPS of .826.

Gonzalez warned that it will take McCann some time to get back to form. He said his All-Star catcher initially won’t take on his usual heavy workload behind the plate. Gonzalez added that after talking to McCann on Monday, he noticed a change in his disposition since the spring .

“When you get a superstar player and he’s injured, those first five or six weeks in February are not very good,” Gonzalez said. “Now he sees light at the end of the tunnel and he knows it’s close to coming back, and so his spirits were really, really good. And he looks good.”

McCann was sidelined by an oblique injury in 2011, then he experienced shoulder pain on some swings for much of last season before eventually undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in the back of his throwing shoulder and secure ligaments back to the socket to stabilize the joint.

But McCann said he doesn’t view his circumstances as a chance to finally be healthy after a run of bad luck with injuries.

“I came back (in 2011) and I just wasn’t very good; it wasn’t because of injury,” he said. “I look at it as one year. I don’t look at it as I’ve had all these injuries. I’ve been able to play a lot of games over eight years. I had a shoulder (injury), and I’ve got to bounce back from it.”

McCann broke in with the Braves as a 21-year-old in 2005. He played 59 games that season, was named an All-Star in his first full season and has been a mainstay in Atlanta ever since.

He said going back to the minors as an established big-league player, even for a temporary stay, was an eye-opener.

“I’ve gone back to see Randy Ingle, (Ralph) “Rocket” Wheeler, Bobby Moore, Mike Dunn,” McCann said, referring to personnel in the Braves’ minor-league system. “I went to them at 18, 19 years old and to go back at almost 30 years old, having seven or eight years in the big leagues, it’s been a different experience. I wouldn’t say it’s been a bad experience.

“There are a lot of kids trying to get here. When you get here you kind of forget that but all these kids are doing what I did 10 years ago. It was a fun process.”

ATLANTA -- Thanks to Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, the Washington Nationals finally have a victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Zimmermann allowed just two hits over eight innings and Desmond, batting in the cleanup spot for the first time, hit a two-run homer in the fourth as the Nationals beat the Braves 2-0 on Wednesday night.

The Nationals had lost their first five games to the Braves this season after dropping their final four games a year ago.

Zimmermann (5-1) struck out eight and walked none while running his scoreless streak to 18 innings. The right-hander retired the final 17 batters he faced before giving way to Rafael Soriano, who pitched a perfect ninth inning for his eighth save.

A two-out single by Justin Upton in the first inning and a double by Paul Maholm with one out in the third were the only hits off Zimmermann, who threw 72 of his 107 pitches for strikes.

Maholm (3-3) was the hard-luck loser, retiring the final 13 batters he faced and allowing just three hits over eight innings. He struck out four and walked two, throwing 63 of his 99 pitches for strikes.

The news wasn’t all good for the Nationals, though. Bryce Harper had to leave the game in the middle of the sixth after apparently tweaking his left side on a checked swing to start the inning.

Maholm walked Harper leading off the fourth inning and Desmond then jumped on a slow 1-and-1 curveball left in the middle of the plate for his fourth home run of the season and only the second homer Maholm had allowed in six starts.

Maholm started the season with 25 2/3 scoreless innings, including going 7 2/3 in a 9-0 victory over the Nationals on April 14. But he gave up eight runs and lasted just 3 2/3 innings at Detroit on Friday in losing his second straight start.

Zimmermann was coming off his second complete game of the season and first career shutout. He didn’t allow a Cincinnati runner into scoring position on Friday, allowing just one hit and one walk in the 1-0 victory.

NOTES: Nationals head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz and assistant John Hsu used a defibrillator and CPR to revive a stadium worker who had suffered an apparent heart attack near the Washington clubhouse before Wednesday’s game. … Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg experienced no issues during his regular between-starts bullpen session on Wednesday and is set to make his scheduled outing on Saturday at Pittsburgh. Health concerns arose after he kept shaking his arm and had command issues while working six innings in the Nationals’ 3-2 loss to the Braves on Monday. … Braves RHP Tim Hudson, who beat the National 8-1 on Tuesday, is only the second major-league pitcher to homer during his 200th career win. Cleveland’s Bob Lemon did it against Baltimore on Sept. 11, 1956. … With second baseman Danny Espinosa’s average down to .173 after going 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts in the previous four games, Nationals manager Davey Johnson started Steve Lombardozzi in his place. Lombardozzi hit second in the order. … RF Jayson Werth, who fouled a pitch off his left ankle in the series opener, was out of the Nationals lineup for the second straight game.