The Atlanta Braves missed out on a chance to inch closer to their first National League East title since 2005 and will try to make that happen Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.
Due to the senseless acts at the Navy Yard Monday afternoon, the opener of this set was postponed and a doubleheader was scheduled for Tuesday. The Nationals won both games, taking the first contest by a 6-5 score thanks to a three-run bottom of the ninth inning.
Washington then handed the Braves a 4-0 loss in the nightcap and was led by Tanner Roark's seven shutout innings of two-hit ball. Roark became the first rookie this season to win his first seven decisions, striking out six batters and allowing only one walk.
"What a great game from Roark," said Washington manager Davey Johnson. "He was completely in command the entire time he was up there. His pitch count got kind of high there, so that's why I took him out. He earned that win today."
Ryan Zimmerman homered and Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Steve Lombardozzi all drove in runs. Denard Span had a hit to extend his career-high hitting streak to 28 games. The streak is also the longest in the majors this season and Span is two games away from the team record set by Zimmerman. Joe DiMaggio, of course, holds the record with a 56-game streak.
"I really try not to think about it, to be honest," Span told the Nats' official website. "We are playing good baseball and I think that has been more important to me than the hitting streak -- us winning games. I'm happy that I've been able to contribute to us winning some games."
The Nationals, winners in three straight and 10 of 11 contests, are 4 1/2 games off the final wild card spot in the NL and pulled within eight games of the Braves for the division lead.
Taking the mound for Washington Wednesday will be Ross Ohlendorf, who is 4-0 with a 3.15 earned run average in 15 games (6 starts) and tossed five innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 win over Philadelphia on Friday. The Nats have won Ohlendorf's last five appearances and the right-hander is 0-1 with an 8.38 ERA in two career starts against the Braves.
The Nationals will start a four-game series versus the Miami Marlins on Thursday and are 4-1 on a 10-game homestand.
Meanwhile, the Braves have been struggling as of late, losing three in a row and nine of 13 games. Closer Craig Kimbrel blew a save opportunity in the first game against the Nationals and it didn't help that shortstop Andrelton Simmons had a fielding error, which allowed the game-winning run to score.
Kimbrel has four blown saves this season and fell to 3-3 with the loss.
It was pitcher's duel in the second game, as Roark went head-to-head with veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia. Garcia gave up one run before he was removed after seven innings to take the loss and Jordan Walden allowed three more runs in the eighth inning.
Freddie Freeman had a hit and pushed his average to .313 and Chris Johnson was 0-for-4. Johnson is batting .327 and trails Colorado's Michael Cuddyer (.331) in the NL batting race.
Atlanta's magic number to clinch the NL East is still four.
"I like where we are at and our position, but there's still baseball games to be played," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "We've just got to get back on a roll again."
Atlanta, which will visit the Chicago Cubs for three games this weekend, hopes Alex Wood can salvage this series at Nationals Park when he takes the mound Wednesday. Wood is 3-3 with a 3.45 earned run average in 25 games (10 starts) and did not receive a decision his last time out on Sept. 7 at Philadelphia, where he gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 6-5 setback.
Wood faced the Nationals for the first time on Aug. 16 in a 3-2 win and did not factor in the outcome after limiting them to a run in 6 1/3 innings.
Despite the doubleheader sweep, Atlanta is still 12-6 against the Nationals this season.