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Andruw Jones smacks 47th homer as Braves blank Nationals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Giving up a solo shot to Andruw Jones is one
thing. He is, after all, a leading MVP candidate who tied a Braves
record with his 47th homer.

Giving up a three-run drive on a 2-0 pitch to Atlanta's No. 8
hitter, rookie Brian McCann, is quite another, even if he knew what
to look for.

Washington's Livan Hernandez allowed both of those big hits,
which were plenty to propel the Braves to a 4-0 victory over the
Nationals on Saturday behind eight shutout innings from Jorge Sosa
and one homer-robbing catch by Jeff Francoeur.

The rookie outfielder leaped and reached over the wall in right
to bring back Cristian Guzman's shot with a runner on in the fifth.

"It kind takes a little air out of you," Nationals manager
Frank Robinson said. "That certainly would have been a big moment
there for us."

Instead, it was Jones and McCann who cleared the right-field
fence in the fourth off Hernandez (15-7) -- who has lost 11 straight
regular-season decisions against Atlanta.

"We just take advantage when he makes mistakes," Jones said.

Hernandez started Jones off with a looping 61 mph offering, then
followed it with a pitch at 64 mph for a called strike.

The right-hander next threw consecutive pitches at 87 mph, and
the second was pounded by Jones, who added to his majors-high homer
total and matched Eddie Mathews (1953) and Hank Aaron (1971) for
most in a season by a Braves player.

"It is good to be out there with some numbers like that," said
Jones, who's been fighting the flu.

"You know," Hernandez said, "Andruw's hot."

Particularly against the Nationals, going 5-for-12 with three
homers and seven RBI in the teams' last three games.

"We just need to be smart enough to know which players to pitch
around. Frank is the manager, and he needs to step up and make
those moves," outfielder Jose Guillen said. "But I'm not a
manager, I'm not a pitching coach, I'm not a pitcher. To me,
there's no reason to be pitching to Andruw right now, the way he's
been swinging."

An out after Jones connected, three members of Atlanta's
impressive rookie contingent helped pad the lead. Francoeur
doubled, Ryan Langerhans walked, and McCann hit his fifth homer,
making it 4-0.

"I think the guy on second base" -- Francoeur -- "gave him the
sign," Hernandez said.

Sosa (11-3) made it stand up, improving to 8-0 with a 1.71 ERA
in road starts this season, thanks in part to the big assist from
Francoeur.

After the catch, Jones -- a seven-time Gold Glove winner -- jogged
over from his spot in center field to shake Francoeur's hand.

"That turned the ballgame around," Braves manager Bobby Cox
said.

Sosa scattered six hits, didn't walk a batter, and only allowed
two runners as far as second base. He did it by throwing 74 of his
99 pitches for strikes. He started off 24 of 29 batters with a
strike.

"He kept us off-balance," Brad Wilkerson said. "He didn't
really give up too many hard-hit balls."

It had to be deflating loss for the Nationals, and not just
because it was their fourth setback in five games as they try to
stay in the NL wild-card race.

This defeat came a day after Washington overcame a 6-2 deficit
to beat Atlanta 8-6. And it came with All-Star and staff ace
Hernandez on the mound. While he did allow the bullpen some
much-needed rest by lasting eight innings, he also took a loss by
giving up the four runs and seven hits.

"We just don't seem to be able to put two games together,"
Robinson said. "Doesn't seem like we have the ability to do it."

Now this is what the Nationals have to look forward to in
Sunday's series finale: Rookie reliever Jason Bergmann will make
his first major league start as part of a bullpen-relay strategy
against NL East leader Atlanta and John Smoltz.

"It's going to be a tough task," Wilkerson said.

Game notes
The Braves have won seven of nine games. ... Hernandez's
last regular-season victory over Atlanta came on Aug. 18, 2000, for
San Francisco. He's 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA against the Braves in the
postseason, though. ... Only Cardinals RHP Chris Carpenter has a
better road record (12-0) than Sosa in 2005.