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Braves make it 5 in a row
Atlanta Braves' Brian McCann, right, and Washington Nationals catcher Johnny Estrada watch McCann's home run in the second inning. - photo by The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Tim Hudson pitched six scoreless innings before tiring and drove in two runs, leading the Braves past the Washington Nationals 7-3 on Monday night for Atlanta’s fifth straight win.

The Braves have allowed only six runs during their winning streak, which pushed them above .500 for the first time this season at 10-9.

Washington keeps falling farther and farther back in the NL East race. The Nationals lost their third in a row and have dropped 15 of 17 since starting the season with three straight wins.

Matt Chico (0-4) lasted only four innings, giving up six runs and eight hits. He walked Hudson in the third with the bases loaded, one of several miscues that showed the Nationals need a refresher in baseball fundamentals.

Washington had two runners thrown out at the plate, the second with Atlanta ahead 6-0, and another thrown out at second to thwart a potential rally in the eighth. The Nationals also allowed a Braves runner to sneak home on Hudson’s sacrifice bunt in the second, giving the pitcher his first RBI of the night.
Hudson (3-1) went to the seventh with 7-0 lead, but the Nationals touched him for a couple of runs. He might have gotten though it if not for an error by first baseman Mark Teixeira, who dropped a routine throw and gave Washington an unearned run. Royce Ring got the final out with two on to preserve Atlanta’s 7-2 lead.

Still, it was a heartening performance for Hudson, who lasted only three innings in his previous start at Florida and couldn’t get any heat on his pitches. He was back in the low 90s against Washington and, thanks in part to his defense, managed to avoid any major trouble despite giving up 10 hits and walking two in 6 2/3 innings.

The Nationals had a shot at going ahead in the first when Austin Kearns singled to right with two on. But Jeff Francoeur showed off one of the majors’ best arms, easily throwing out Cristian Guzman with a one-hop strike to the plate.

Washington’s most glaring blunder came in the fifth. Felipe Lopez doubled with one out, and pinch-hitter Rob Mackowiak followed with a hard grounder up the middle that deflected off second baseman Martin Prado for a hit. Shortstop Yunel Escobar chased down the ball in the short center, wheeled around and threw toward home. Lopez, who never stopped running, was tagged out by catcher Brian McCann.

Guzman followed with another hit that would have driven in Lopez — if only he’d held at third.

The Braves jumped ahead in the first on a sacrifice fly by Chipper Jones, who was back in the lineup one day after leaving a game because of an ailing right quadriceps. Jones also extended his hitting streak to 13 games.

Atlanta scored three more in the second. Brian McCann led off with his fifth homer, and runners were at first and third after two more hits. Hudson dropped a bunt toward third, looking mainly to move Gregor Blanco to second, but Matt Diaz was able to stray down the line when the shortstop Guzman failed to cover third.

As soon as Ryan Zimmerman threw to first, Diaz raced home to make it 2-0. Prado followed with a run-scoring double.

In the third, Chico walked Blanco intentionally to load the bases for Hudson, then walked him, too, to bring home another run. Prado picked up his second RBI of the night on a forceout, making it 6-0.

Former Brave Willie Harris broke up the shutout with a pinch-hit double in the seventh.

Notes: Washington closer Chad Cordero pitched the eighth to get in some work. It was just his fourth appearance of the season. ... The teams have already played five times, with Atlanta holding a 3-2 lead. They play eight times before the opening month is done: again Tuesday, followed by a two-game set at Washington next week.

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