Nationals shut down by Harang again; Strasburg can't finish sweep as Braves win 6-2

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WASHINGTON — All season long, the Washington Nationals have been unable to solve Aaron Harang.

With a short-handed lineup Wednesday, the Nationals managed just one unearned run off Harang in a 6-2 loss as the Atlanta Braves avoided a sweep against their NL East rivals.

Harang (11-10) outpitched Steven Strasburg and improved to 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA against Washington this year.

"He just changes speeds and throws strikes to both sides of the plate at any time in the count," Nationals manager Matt Williams said.

Strasburg, winless against the Braves for more than two years, allowed three runs in six innings — his best outing against Atlanta this season.

Bryce Harper homered in the ninth for Washington, which had won three straight and still holds a healthy eight-game lead over the Braves in the NL East.

Kevin Frandsen had three singles for the Nationals, who managed their only run off Harang when Denard Span scored on a fifth-inning passed ball.

"He uses all his pitches in every count," said Harper, hitless in three at-bats against Harang. "Sometimes, you get a little frustrated against a guy like that, but all in all, I thought we did pretty good."

Harang was 0-3 with a 7.98 ERA in his previous three starts. But those struggles didn't show Wednesday, when he struck out nine and allowed six hits, all singles, while issuing no walks.

Strasburg (11-11) fell to 0-2 with a 7.18 ERA against Atlanta this year. His last victory over the Braves came on Aug. 21, 2012.

The NL strikeout leader fanned eight, but lost for the first time since Aug. 8.

"I felt like I was hitting my spots, and just a couple hits, just out of our reach, and that's the ballgame," Strasburg said.

Justin Upton drove in three runs to help the Braves snap a three-game skid.

Upton's RBI single in the sixth broke a 1-all tie, and he added a two-run double off reliever Ryan Mattheus during a three-run seventh.

B.J. Upton homered for the wild card-contending Braves to open the scoring against Strasburg in the fifth.

After Span's run tied it in the bottom half, Freddie Freeman led off the sixth with a double and scored on Justin Upton's single.

Justin Upton was caught stealing, but the Braves added another run when Tommy La Stella doubled, reached third on Strasburg's wild pitch and scored Christian Bethancourt's single.

SORIANO SIGHTING

Making his first appearance since last Friday, Nationals reliever Rafael Soriano allowed two hits in one inning, but no runs.

Soriano has been removed from the closer's role after blowing save chances in his previous two appearances. Drew Storen saved the Nationals' last three victories.

Williams hasn't yet said that Storen is the team's new permanent closer.

"I feel fine, because I talked to Matt, and he told me he's going to give me a couple days," Soriano said. "He said Drew was going to be the closer (for now), and I'll be happy because we win. He did his job, and I'm happy for that."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: C Evan Gattis (strep throat) was back in the clubhouse after spending the previous two days at the team hotel. Manager Fredi Gonzalez kept Gattis out of Wednesday's lineup and said he will likely serve as Atlanta's designated hitter for the upcoming series in Texas.

Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon (illness) and SS Ian Desmond (back tightness) were held out of the starting lineup. Desmond left Tuesday's game after five innings. Williams said Desmond could have played Wednesday and will likely play Thursday, but Rendon is questionable for Thursday night's game against the Mets.

UP NEXT

Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (12-10, 2.97 ERA) faces Mets RHP Bartolo Colon (13-11, 3.96) on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at Citi Field.

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