ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves understand the only way they
can make a late-season push for a wild-card playoff spot: They have
to score a lot of runs to make up for spotty pitching.
The plan worked Sunday as starting pitcher Oscar Villarreal
lasted only three innings but the Braves had 16 hits, including
three homers, to beat Washington 13-6.
The Braves scored a combined 23 runs in winning the last two
games of the three-game series with Washington, sparking reminders
of a hot streak in mid-July when Atlanta scored 10 or more runs in
five straight games.
"It's going to take something like that, it's going to take an
explosion for a couple of weeks," said Adam LaRoche, who hit a
three-run double in the Braves' six-run third inning.
Despite their drop to fourth in the NL East, the Braves rank
third in the league in runs and second in homers.
"That doesn't surprise me because you look right across the
page at our pitching stats and they tell the story," said Chipper
Jones, referring to the team's 10th-place NL ranking with a 4.64
ERA. "If you don't pitch, you're not going to play winning
The Braves won Sunday despite giving up 12 hits.
Villarreal, who has been pushing into service as a starter after
spending most of the season in the bullpen, gave up six hits and
four runs in three innings. Macay McBride (4-1) pitched two
scoreless innings for the win.
Alfonso Soriano hit three doubles and a single for the Nationals
and stole two bases.
"It means nothing, because we lost the game," Soriano said.
The Nationals left Atlanta with a 5.02 ERA -- last in the NL.
They fell a season-high 20 games below .500 and have not won a
series since winning two of three from San Francisco July 31-Aug.
The Braves, coming off a 10-1 romp over the Nationals on
Saturday, chased Washington's starting pitcher after 2 2-3 innings
for the second straight day.
Billy Traber couldn't hold a 3-0, first-inning lead. He gave up
two runs in the bottom of the first and was knocked out in the
Traber (3-3) gave up eight hits and eight runs, one day after
Pedro Astacio gave up eight hits and six runs in 2 2-3 innings.
"I didn't pitch the greatest," Traber said. "The bottom line
is we didn't make the pitches we were supposed to make. And when I
say we, I mean me."
The Braves cut Washington's lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the
first when Edgar Renteria doubled and scored on Chipper Jones' 21st
homer, his third in the last four games.
The Braves answered with six runs in the bottom of the third,
twice making Washington manager Frank Robinson pay for ordering
intentional walks. The Braves hit four doubles in the inning,
including a two-run drive by Edgar Renteria that tied the game.
With two outs, Traber gave an intentional walk to Francoeur, but
McCann followed with a run-scoring double. Robinson then ordered an
intentional walk to Matt Diaz, loading the bases, to set up the
three-run double by LaRoche.
"I was trying to find a way for him to be successful,"
Robinson said of Traber.
Francoeur's three-run homer off Saul Rivera gave the Braves an
11-4 lead in the fourth inning.
Brian Schneider's two-run double in the fifth cut the lead to
McCann led off Atlanta's seventh with a double and scored on a
sacrifice fly by LaRoche, giving him four RBI.
Andruw Jones hit his 30th homer in the eighth off Chad Cordero.
Soriano was picked off first base by Villarreal in the
second inning. Soriano stole third base in the fourth and swiped
second in the sixth. He has 34 steals this season. ... The Braves
lead the season series with the Nationals 8-7, with a three-game
series left at Washington Sept. 18-20. ... Andruw Jones reached 30
homers for the seventh time in his career.