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Surging Braves win 6-3 in 10 to sweep Nationals

JOSEPH WHITE | 9/27/2009, 5:15 p.m.

The Atlanta Braves scored three in the top of the 10th inning Sunday, keeping up their late-season surge and completing a sweep of the Washington Nationals with a 6-3 victory on Sunday, Sept. 27. Brian McCann drove in a run with a groundout, and pinch hitter Omar Infante followed with a two-run single as the Braves ran their winning streak to six. They've also won 10 in a row on the road - their longest such streak in more than five years - and are a season-high 15 games over .500 entering the final week of the season.
Mike Gonzalez (5-4) picked up the win in relief for the Braves, who began the day 2 1/2 games behind Colorado in the race for the NL wild card. Rafael Soriano pitched the 10th for his 27th save. Mike MacDougal (1-1) got the loss for the Nationals, who have dropped four straight and 103 on the season, surpassing the loss total from last year's 59-102 finish.

With one out in the 10th, MacDougal walked Nate McLouth and hit Martin Prado with a 96-mph fastball. Chipper Jones then hit a weak chopper into no man's land between the pitcher's mound and first base for an infield hit to load the bases.

McCann then chopped one to the same area of the infield. This time, MacDougal had enough time to pick up the ball and retire the batter at first, but McLouth scampered home. Infante followed with a single to center to score Prado and Jones. All of Washington's runs came on solo homers, but the Nationals essentially lost the game by going 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

With Adam Dunn resting some late-season aches and pains, Josh Willingham moved into the cleanup spot to fill the second half of the Nationals' usual mid-lineup punch. One pitch after Ryan Zimmerman went to the opposite field for his 32nd homer, Willingham pulled one to left for his 24th to give the Nationals a 2-0 first-inning lead.

The Nationals missed a chance to increase their advantage when Elijah Dukes popped to shortstop with the bases loaded and two outs in the third, and a poor fielding decision allowed the Braves to tie it in the fourth.

With runners on first and second with none out, Willingham threw to third instead of second on McCann's deep flyout, allowing both runners to advance. Had the runner been held at first, the inning likely would have ended on a double play when Garret Anderson bounced to shortstop. Instead, a runner scored on the groundout, and another came home on Yunel Escobar's second triple of the year.

Mike Morse's second homer of the year - both in the last two days - got the lead back for the Nationals in the fourth, but the Braves tied it again in the seventh when Escobar walked and scored on Adam LaRoche's double off the base of the right-field wall.

Willie Harris led off the bottom half with a triple for the Nationals, but he was stranded there by reliever Peter Moylan. Moylan got Ian Desmond to ground out to first with the infield in, intentionally walked Zimmerman, then struck out Willingham and Dukes - both looking.

Starters Derek Lowe and Livan Hernandez fought to a draw with nearly identical numbers. Lowe allowed three runs and seven hits over six innings, while Hernandez gave up three run and six hits over 6 1-3 innings.