Braves' wild card lead shrinks after loss to Nats

Chien-Ming Wang pitched six solid innings 1 victory over the Braves to slow Atlanta's playoff push.

Danny Espinosa added a two-run single for the Nationals, who bounced back from a 7-4 loss in Friday's series-opener and won for the sixth time in seven games.

The Braves lost for the fourth time in six outings and saw their lead in the NL wild card race trimmed back to two games over St. Louis. The Cardinals scored two in the ninth to pull out a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.

"You gotta win ball games," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "It's nice to watch the scoreboard and do all that kind of stuff, but we have to win our games."

Atlanta will wrap up this series on Sunday before heading home to face NL East-champion Philadelphia for three games to close the season.

The Braves were hoping to build on Friday's win, but Wang (4-3) stymied them. He allowed just four hits, struck out four and did issue a walk. Tom Gorzelanny, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen then closed out the six-hitter, with Storen notching his 41st save.

"I like the way he's throwing," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said about Wang, who made his 11th start since recovering from shoulder problems. "He started out a little rough and every time out has been an improvement. I had a fresh bullpen, so I didn't want to [go much further with him]. There's always next year."

Brandon Beachy (7-3) took the loss for Atlanta, surrendering all four runs on five hits and four walks with nine strikeouts. Freddie Freeman accounted for the lone Braves run with his 21st homer.

The Nats reached Beachy for a run in the second inning as Jayson Werth walked with one out, stole second and scored on Chris Marrero's single to center. They tacked on three more in the fourth.

Ryan Zimmerman led off the fourth with a base hit and Werth walked with one out. Beachy's second wild pitch of the inning advanced both runners and it proved costly when Espinosa lined a single to center field to chase both home for a 3-0 lead.

Espinosa then stole second and Ivan Rodriguez was later walked intentionally with two outs to bring up Wang, who was 0-for-32 lifetime at the plate. He slapped a base hit just inside the bag at first base to send Espinosa home.

The Braves mustered just three singles against Wang through the first four innings before Freeman led off the fifth with a blast over the wall in center field.

Wang retired the next six batters to end his outing. Gorzelanny worked around a leadoff walk in the seventh and the Braves threatened in the eighth against Clippard. With runners on the corners and one out, Rodriguez threw out Michael Bourn trying to steal second and Martin Prado flied out to keep it a three-run game.

Storen gave up a one-out single to Dan Uggla in the ninth, but set down Brian McCann on a pop up and fanned Freeman to end it.

Game Notes

Zimmerman had two of Washington's six hits...The Nationals improved to 57-22 when scoring first...Rodriguez also threw out McCann trying to steal in the second inning...Washington is 11-3 in its last 14 games.