WASHINGTON – The NL East leading Washington Nationals couldn't finish off a sweep of second place Atlanta. It didn't dampen the overall homestand.
Washington's three-game winning streak came to a halt as Kris Medlen pitched seven shutout innings in his latest winning performance and Martin Prado's two-run double proved decisive in a 5-1 victory over the Nationals on Wednesday night.
Still the Nationals, who own the best record in baseball, took two of three from the Braves after doing the same against the Mets. During the six-game stretch, they picked up two games on Atlanta in the standings further distancing themselves.
"We gained some ground and that's what we wanted to do in this series," said starter Ross Detwiler. "It's tough to sweep no matter who it is."
Detwiler (7-6) pitched 5 1-3 innings, allowing two runs and seven hits with four strikeouts and one walk.
Despite the loss, Washington has won 14 of its last 18 games.
The Nationals, who matched a franchise record on Tuesday by extending their division lead to seven games, maintain a 10-5 series lead over the Braves this season.
"Six games up is huge for us," rookie Bryce Harper said. "We have a couple of more games to go. Being ahead like that really is good for us. Hopefully we can keep playing like we are and keep it going."
In fairness to the Nationals, nobody is beating Medlen right now.
Medlen (5-1) allowed seven hits while striking out seven and walking one in his fifth start of the season. The Braves, who snapped a four-game losing skid, have won 16 consecutive starts behind the right-hander dating back to May 2010.
Coming off a shutout in his last outing, Medlen extended his scoreless streak to 21 innings. Since entering the Braves rotation on July 31, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA.
"He was mixing really well, his fastball was good," said Harper, who finished 1 of 4, but was hitless in three at-bats against Medlin. "He was throwing his curve ball and changeup. You just try and do the best you can against a guy like that. Nothing you can do but tip your cap."
Trailing 2-0 in the eighth, the Nationals scored an unearned run against the Braves bullpen after Medlin exited following 103 pitches. Harper's grounded a leadoff, opposite field single against reliever Eric O'Flaherty, and took second on left fielder Reed Johnson's bobble. After moving to third on Ryan Zimmerman's ground ball out, Harper scored on Michael Morse's single.
O'Flaherty walked Adam LaRoche, but avoided further damage by inducing Ian Desmond into a double play grounder.
In command through four innings, Detwiler lost his way with two outs in the fifth. With Tyler Pastornicky on first base, Detwiler walked his counterpart Medlin on four pitches. Up stepped Prado, who laced a 2-2 slider toward centerfielder Harper. The rookie initially broke in on the liner which sailed over his head. Both runners scored on the double, Prado's second of the game.
The extra-base hit drove home the runs, but the free pass to Medlen had Detwiler annoyed after the game.
"He scored, he walked. Especially to a pitcher, those always hurt," Detwiler said.
Two of the Braves three ninth-inning runs against Nationals reliever Tom Gorzelanny were unearned.
The Nationals had opportunities against Medlen. In the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, the 26-year-old pitcher hung tough, getting LaRoche out on a foul pop to first base and Desmond, a notoriously good hitter in bases-loaded situations on a grounder.
With runners on the corners against Medlen in the second, Kurt Suziki grounded into a double play.
"We had the right people up at the right time, but we didn't get it done," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Not this time anyway.
Notes: Pre-game showers delayed the start by 29 minutes. .Before the game Washington honored Atlanta's retiring 3B Jones, who finished 1-for-4 in his final regular season game at National Park. . The two sides wrap up their regular season meetings September 14-16 in Atlanta. .Following an off-day, Edwin Jackson starts for Washington on Friday at Philadelphia.