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ATL@WSH: Zimmerman homers twice to lead Nats in rout

WASHINGTON -- With another strong outing from Ross Detwiler and the continued tear Ryan Zimmerman has enjoyed at the plate, Sunday afternoon capped a day-and-night reversal from the beginning of the Nationals' weekend.

After dropping the first two of four games against the Braves -- including an 11-inning heartbreaker on Friday night -- the Nats enjoyed a 9-2 win in the series finale Sunday at Nationals Park. The Nationals now begin a seven-day road trip with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Braves in the National League East, the same margin they held entering the series.

Detwiler set forth perhaps his finest effort of the year, throwing seven innings for the first time this season and allowing only two runs (one earned) on seven hits. He struck out three Braves and walked just one, providing the Nats' bullpen some extended relief after the rigors of Friday's protracted game and Saturday's day-night doubleheader.

Detwiler also earned his first win since May 3 after taking no-decisions in each of his last five starts. Craig Stammen pitched the final two innings, allowing only one hit.

"Since it was a doubleheader yesterday, I knew that the bullpen needed a little break," Detwiler said. "I was just trying to get early outs and go as deep into the game as possible."

Following their 10-run outburst on Friday, the Nationals were shut out in the first game on Saturday and managed five in the nightcap. Sunday, the offensive recovery continued, as the Nats hammered the Braves' pitching staff to the tune of 18 hits. Right-hander Jair Jurjjens lasted only 2 1/3 innings after allowing four runs in the first inning and two more in the third. In 12 games against the Braves this year, the Nationals have outscored them, 19-3, in the first inning.

"We've struggled with our consistency because we've struggled at the end of our rotation, and we saw it today," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "It's a little demoralizing when you're in a dogfight for your division and you're constantly fighting from behind. Our chance to win the series was [Saturday] night and we didn't get it done. Today was not good from pitch one."

Ryan Zimmerman belted two home runs, a two-run opposite-field shot in the first and a solo blast to lead off the third, for the 10th multihomer game of his career. The last time he replicated the feat was on Aug. 5, 2010.

Since receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing right shoulder on June 24, Zimmerman has hit .392 (40-for-102) with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs.

"It's not me, I think everyone's healthy," Zimmerman said. "The more you get healthy, and the more consistency you have in your lineup, the more runs you're going to score."

With a trio of RBIs, Zimmerman was also one of four Nats to notch three hits on the afternoon, joining Michael Morse, Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina. For Morse, Sunday was his third three-hit game in the last week, and for Espinosa, it capped his homestand at 11-for-27, with a home run, five RBIs and five runs.

The Nats made it 8-0 in the fifth, when backup catcher Sandy Leon drove in two with a double. After Atlanta tacked on its pair, Zimmerman scored once more in the sixth on a Bernadina single.

"We didn't want [the Braves] coming into our house and leave with them feeling that good," manager Davey Johnson said. "I gave them one Friday, and then they nipped us on Saturday morning, but I wasn't worried about the club. There's no letdown in this ball club."

Having regained some padding in their division lead, only the loss of Ian Desmond could sour the Nationals' victory. Following the game, Johnson announced the Nats' shortstop is expected to be placed on the disabled list with a left oblique tear before the team begins a three-game set with the Mets Monday in New York

Despite playing through the injury for the majority of the summer, Desmond is batting a team-high .286 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs, the latter two totals leading all Major League shortstops. He was held out of Sunday's game, with Espinosa sliding from second base to shortstop and Steve Lombardozzi becoming the second baseman. That has been the regular alignment for the games Desmond has missed over the recent weeks.

"I know a lot of clubs have been hit, but I think we've been lambasted with injuries to key people," Johnson said. "It seems like we've had to change roles; bullpen, offensive configuration. It's been a rough year in that regard."

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