Series: Game 2 of 4

Series tied 1-1 (as of 8/31)

Game 1: Monday, August 29
Game 1: Tuesday, August 30
Game 2: Wednesday, August 31
Game 3: Wednesday, August 31
Game 4: Thursday, September 1
in 10

Nationals 3

(68-64, 32-38 away)

Braves 5

(75-57, 42-22 home)

    4:35 PM ET, August 31, 2005

    Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia 

    123456789 R H E
    WAS 101010000 3 9 0
    ATL 30002000 - 5 8 1

    W: H. Ramirez (11-8)

    L: E. Loaiza (9-10)

    S: K. Farnsworth (8)

    Andruw Jones smacks 43rd homer as Braves top Nats

    ATLANTA (AP) -- Fifty homers would by nice. But Andruw Jones is looking beyond the regular season.

    Jones hit his major league-leading 43rd homer and drove in five runs, leading the Atlanta Braves past the Washington Nationals 5-3 Wednesday in the first game of a doubleheader.

    Jones finished one short of his career high for RBI. He drove in six runs in a 1999 game at Colorado. For good measure, the Gold Glove center fielder also made two diving catches, both on liners hit by Preston Wilson.

    "He's the greatest player in the world right now," said Horacio Ramirez, who went seven innings for the win. "Both sides of the ball -- offensively, defensively -- he's playing great."

    With 30 games to go, Jones has a realistic shot at 50 homers. Before this season, he had never hit more than 36 in a season.

    "I really don't care," Jones said. "I'm just looking forward to proving people wrong about counting us out of being in the playoffs and not getting past that first round."

    While the Braves have won 13 straight division titles, they've been bounced in the opening round the last three years.

    Ramirez (11-8) rebounded from a shaky start, allowing three runs and eight hits. Kyle Farnsworth picked up his second save with the Braves and eighth overall.

    Marlon Byrd had three hits, including a homer, and scored three runs for the Nationals.

    Jones hit a three-run homer in the first, the drive barely clearing the left-field wall to give the Braves a 3-1 lead. He came into the game with two more homers than anyone else in the majors.

    Jones knocked out Washington starter Esteban Loaiza (9-10) and broke a 3-all tie with a two-run single in the fifth, giving the Atlanta player an NL-leading 108 RBI and closing in on his career best -- 116 two years ago.

    "When we had a chance to score, we did," Jones said, "and that was the game."

    The Nationals went ahead in the first on Jose Guillen's run-scoring single, and had runners at first and third with one out. But Ramirez avoided the big inning, getting Wilson on a popup and Vinny Castilla with a grounder back to the mound.

    Ramirez surrendered eight hits and walked two before he was replaced by Chris Reitsma, who managed only one out before giving way to Farnsworth with two runners on in the eighth.

    On Farnsworth's first pitch, the Braves picked off Guillen at first. Catcher Brian McCann threw to first baseman Adam LaRoche sneaking in behind the runner. Guillen complained, and TV replays appeared to show him getting his right hand to the bag before LaRoche's swipe tag.

    "You can't let that happen," said Washington manager Frank Robinson, who didn't come out to argue. "He felt like he was safe, but the umpire thought he was out. Those things come back to haunt you."

    Castilla grounded out to end the threat, with Farnsworth pounding his glove as he walked off the mound. He finished up with a scoreless ninth.

    Nick Johnson pulled the Nationals to 3-2 in the third, driving in a run with an infield grounder. They tied it in the fifth on Byrd's third hit of a day, a drive into the center-field seats for his first homer.

    Byrd, who played at nearby Georgia Tech, also singled and doubled, coming around to score each time.

    Loaiza lasted only 4 1-3 innings. He gave up seven hits and walked four.

    "He didn't have enough," Robinson said. "We needed a better performance out of him to have a chance to win the game."

    After getting burned twice by Jones, Loaiza said the Atlanta star should be the leading candidate for NL MVP.

    "In the first half, he was awesome," Loaiza said, "and now he's locked in."

    Game notes

    In the nightcap, Washington's Livan Hernandez faced Atlanta's John Thomson, who struggled in his first three starts after coming off the DL. He gave up 16 earned runs in 13 1-3 innings. ... Braves OF Ryan Langerhans, leading off for the first time in the majors, doubled twice.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press