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ATL@WSH: Medlen fans seven over seven scoreless

WASHINGTON -- Starter Kris Medlen came into the game with a .133 batting average, but drew a two-out walk to keep a rally alive. The Braves turned two inning-ending double plays. Washington, usually a solid defensive team, made two errors that led to three Atlanta runs in the ninth.

Those were some of the reasons why the Braves were able to end their frustrating four-game losing streak Wednesday night. Atlanta made a number of timely plays, finally got some breaks, and took advantage of a strong effort from Medlen and a big two-run double from Martin Prado for a 5-1 victory over Washington before 29,111 at Nationals Park.

The victory pulls the Braves (71-53) back to within six games of the Nationals (77-47) and kept them alive in the National League East race. A loss would have dropped them eight games behind and seriously dented any hopes they had of a division title. The win also prevented the Nationals from completing a sweep of the three-game series.

"We didn't want to be one more game back in the standings," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's nice for us to get a little momentum [going] to the West Coast. Hopefully, this win will get us going in the right direction."

Medlen (5-1) helped push the Braves that way. He threw seven shutout innings, scattering seven hits. He also struck out seven, walked just one and sawed off three Washington bats with some nasty pitches.

"It's a lot of fun, especially [because] they're the best team in baseball," Medlen said. "And to be able to kind of go through their lineup and make the pitches when I needed to, it was a lot of fun."

The Nationals had some scoring chances in the game but couldn't come through, especially against Medlen.

Washington had runners on first and third with one out in the second, but Kurt Suzuki then grounded into a double play. The Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the sixth before Medlen calmly got Adam LaRoche to pop up and Ian Desmond to ground into a force.

"I have to tip my hat to that pitcher," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He pitched one [heck] of a ballgame. He has a great curveball. He spotted his fastball. He has a great changeup. He is one heck of a young pitcher."

Medlen also helped on offense when the Braves took the lead with a two-run fifth. He came to bat with a runner on first and two outs, and watched while Washington starter Ross Detwiler (7-6) threw four straight balls.

"I was sitting there taking; I really had no chance," Medlen said with a smile later. "For us to be able to get that kind of a break against a really tough pitcher like that; it was [great] for us."

It wound up being a huge break, because instead of ending the inning, the Braves remained alive. Prado then lined a shot to center that Washington's Bryce Harper appeared to misjudge a bit. The ball sailed over his head for a two-run double and a 2-0 lead.

The Nationals scored once in the eighth before the Braves finally took advantage of a few breaks in the ninth. Washington made two errors that led to three Atlanta runs and a 5-1 lead. David Ross hit a sacrifice fly to center for the first run. Michael Bourn added an RBI single to make it 4-1 but advanced to second moments later on a Tom Gorzelanny wild pitch. Bourn then tried to steal third, made it and scored on catcher Suzuki's throwing error.

The victory clearly made the Braves relax in the locker room. Music was playing, teammates were joking around and everyone seemed in a much better mood than after the first two games.

"We need that confidence back," Prado said. "[If we] get a couple of guys on the right track ... [then] I think we're going to be good."

The Braves now are headed out to San Francisco to play the Giants in a tough four-game series starting Thursday night before going to San Diego, and as players were scurrying throughout the clubhouse, packing up, Chipper Jones sat quietly at his locker.

Jones worked on signing a bunch of his jerseys for other players like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The Nationals had honored Jones before the game since this was his last regular-season game in Washington, as the third baseman will retire after this season.

But Jones said that even one win like Wednesday's can really help the Braves as they try to keep their dreams of first place alive.

"A win like this kind of rejuvenates us," Jones said. "You keep putting pressure on yourselves to go out and end [a losing streak]. It keeps building and the frustration keeps building, and this win allows us to take a deep breath and hopefully build some momentum going out West."

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