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Wood pitches Braves past Nationals in series finale
Atlanta, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - Alex Wood pitched into the eighth inning and finished with a career-high 12 strikeouts as the Atlanta Braves took the crucial rubber match of a three-game set from the Washington Nationals, 3-1, on Sunday.
Atlanta had lost all eight games of a west coast road trip before returning home to take two of three from the NL East-leading Nationals, whose lead in the division fell to 3 1/2 games over the Braves after this one.
"It's a good ball club over there. They're playing well," said Braves third baseman Chris Johnson. "When we had that bad road trip, I think for the most part we tried to stay away from thinking like we've got to win eight or nine in a row. So let's just try to win each series. We did that, so now we're moving on."
Wood (8-9) was spectacular, allowing just a solo home run and five hits over 7 1/3 innings. He walked three, including Jayson Werth to start the eighth inning, but he responded by striking out Adam LaRoche for the fourth time. David Carpenter then came on and induced a double-play on his first and only pitch, ending the inning.
Craig Kimbrel took the mound in the ninth for the third straight day, but fatigue wasn't a factor. The electric closer pitched a 1-2-3 inning to earn his 34th save of the year.
Gio Gonzalez (6-9) was on his way to a career-best in strikeouts as well, but had to leave after 4 2/3 innings with a high pitch count. Gonzalez surrendered two runs on six hits while fanning eight.
"They were fouling off pitches," Gonzalez said. "They kept running up my pitch count. There were a couple of guys at the bottom of the order that were fouling me off for seven or eight pitches, maybe nine."
Gonzalez faced adversity in the bottom of the first inning, as walks to Tommy La Stella and Jason Heyward and a single by Freddie Freeman loaded the bases. Johnson went down swinging through, ending the threat.
Gonzalez struck out the side in the first and second innings. He fanned Freeman to end the third.
Ian Desmond put the Nationals on the board in the top of the fourth inning with his solo shot to right field. Justin Upton matched Desmond with a solo homer in the bottom of the inning to tie it at 1-1.
Upton's home run was the 1,000th hit of his major league career, as well as his 500th run batted in.
Emilio Bonifacio reached on an infield single to start the fifth, as Gonzalez was unable to make an acrobatic toss near the first base line to get the speedy runner. La Stella walked and Freeman grounded into a double-play to move Bonifacio to third. Another infield hit, this time from Heyward, plated Bonifacio and made it 2-1.
Atlanta added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Johnson walked and advanced to second on Ramiro Pena's single to center. Evan Gattis pinch-hit for the pitcher's spot and blooped an RBI single to right off the end of his bat.
Nationals center fielder Denard Span doubled twice, extending his hit streak to 14 games. He has reached base safely in 36 straight ... Upton joined elite company on Sunday, as Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre and Albert Pujols are the only other active players who compiled 1,000 hits and 500 RBI before the age of 27 ... Washington finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
08/11 00:07:17 ET