Braves defeat Nationals, avoid sweep

The division race in the National East may or may not be a fading phenomenon, but the Braves wanted to send the Nationals off with some parting thoughts.

Their secret weapon Kris Medlen was just the guy for the job.

Medlen picked up Wednesday night where he left off Thursday, when he pitched a complete-game shutout against the Padres, by pitching seven more shutout innings and under more pressurized conditions in a 5-1 win.

Medlen extended his scoreless streak to 20 1/3 innings, dating to the second inning of his Aug. 11 start in New York. Along the way, he set a new franchise record after the Braves won his 16th consecutive start dating to 2010. He topped John Smoltz's streak of 15 starts with Braves wins in 1996.

The Braves entered Wednesday's series finale already assured of losing back-to-back series for the first time since losing to the Yankees and Orioles on June 11-17. But they snapped a four-game losing streak and spent only one day feeling the weight of a seven-game deficit in the NL East, their largest of the season.

For the pitchers who throw in the mid-90s that the Nationals roll out every night, Medlen showed them a thing or two about his sinker and change-up combination. He scattered six hits and shattered three bats. He got a great double play started by Tyler Pastornicky to get out of a two-runner jam in the second inning and didn't allow another base runner in scoring position until Jayson Werth's leadoff double in the sixth.

That Werth double helped load the bases with one out in the sixth inning after a Ryan Zimmerman broken-bat single to center and a walk to Michael Morse after he didn't bite on a 3-2 breaking ball. But Medlen got Adam LaRoche to pop out on his next pitch and Ian Desmond to ground out shortly thereafter.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez shook up his lineup, after the Braves scored only five runs in the first two games of the series. He sat struggling second baseman Dan Uggla and lefties Michael Bourn and Brian McCann, in favor of right-handers Pastornicky, Reed Johnson and David Ross against the lefty Ross Detwiler.

But it was an old standby who had the biggest hit of the night. Martin Prado, who took Bourn's place in the leadoff spot, cashed in the game's first two runs on a double over Bryce Harper's head in center field. Prado had two doubles on the night and five in the series, while going 6-for-15 (.400).

Eric O'Flaherty gave up an unearned run in the eighth inning after Johnson bobbled a Harper single, but he worked out of a two-runner jam from there with a double play.

The Braves opened the game up in the ninth inning with three runs off Tom Gorzelanny. Freddie Freeman doubled to take advantage of an error that allowed Chipper Jones to reach. Then Bourn drove in a second run, and created a third with a stolen base that drew a throwing error.

That negated the save situation for Craig Kimbrel, but he finished the game with a perfect ninth.

The Braves wasted their share of scoring opportunities, too. They had a runner at second base three times with less than two outs and couldn't score. They stranded Prado at third base in the first inning, then hit into double plays in the fourth and sixth innings to strand two others at third base.