ATLANTA — Nationals manager Dusty Baker liked what he saw in three innings from starter Joe Ross.
“We were contemplating taking him another inning but said, ‘That’s enough this first time out,’ ” Baker said. “It’s a welcomed sight to see him back.”
Ross returned from a 66-game absence with right shoulder inflammation to give Washington’s rotation a boost in a rain-shorted 6-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
The game was official with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Two delays totaled 2 hours, 57 minutes.
Washington has dropped two straight and needs any combination of six Nationals wins and six New York Mets losses to earn its third NL East title in five years.
Adonis Garcia drove in three runs and Matt Wisler pitched five-plus innings for the Braves.
Ross (7-5) was on a pitch count as he allowed one run and six hits and struck out five. Baker said the day before that he didn’t expect Ross to go longer than three innings.
After a 1-hour, 7-minute delay in the top of the sixth, the Braves scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 6-2 on Garcia’s two-run single and Freddie Freeman’s RBI double.
Wisler (7-12) allowed two runs, five hits and struck out two in 5 2/3 innings. He faced a limited lineup as Baker gave sluggers Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon the day off and used Ryan Zimmerman as a pinch-hitter.
In his first start since July 2, Ross trailed 1-0 in the second on Jace Peterson’s RBI single. He gave up three singles to begin the third, but retired the next three batters to escape the jam.
“Pitched myself into a jam and was able to work out of it in the third,” Ross said. “Felt good, and that’s the main thing I was concerned with today. I could have kept pitching, but probably best to keep it to three innings.”
Reynaldo Lopez took over in the fourth and trailed 3-0 on Dansby Swanson’s RBI double and Garcia’s RBI single.
Washington made it 3-2 in the sixth. Trea Turner tripled and Jayson Werth doubled off Wisler. After the first delay ended, Bryce Harper’s single off Ian Krol scored Werth.
Wisler is 3-3 with a 4.83 in five career starts and one relief appearance against Washington.
The Nationals went 15-4 against Atlanta this season and 36-13 in the series since June 21, 2014. They played their last game at Turner Field with the NL-worst Braves moving to a new ballpark next year.
“We’ve struggled against these guys for a couple of years now,” Wisler said. “To win a series is good for us. If we take that into New York, maybe we can take a series again there.”
In 13 games against Atlanta, Turner hit .475 with five doubles, two triples, six homers, 16 RBIs, seven stolen bases and 20 runs scored. … Freeman went 2 for 3 and has a 22-game hitting streak and has reached safely in 38 straight games. Both are career highs and rank first in the majors among active streaks. … Braves CF Ender Inciarte went 1 for 3 and leads the majors with 88 hits since the All-Star break.
Harper ended a stretch of 26 plate appearances without a hit, though he did have nine walks over the span. He had two hits in 29 at-bats over his previous 10 games.
Washington RHP A.J. Cole (1-2) is scheduled to make his sixth start and first in his career against Miami. Braves RHP Aaron Blair (0-6) is set to start at New York. The rookie has an 8.23 ERA in 12 starts and is 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three starts against the Mets.