By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Offense sputters, Lowe struggles, Braves fall to Nationals
Washington Nationals’ Josh Willingham (16) and Atlanta Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar (19) look for the call after Willingham stole second base during the seventh inning Sunday in Washington. The Nationals won 5-3. - photo by Luis M. Alvarez

Braves vs. Cubs

When: 7:05 tonight

Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago

Pitchers: Braves, RHP Jair Jurrjens (6-6, 2.73); Cubs, RHP Randy Wells (3-3, 2.43)

TV, radio: ESPN; 102.9 FM

WASHINGTON — Scott Olsen watched Washington manager Manny Acta stroll to the mound in the eighth inning and figured his day was done. With the two down and the Nationals ahead 4-1, Olsen had walked two hitters to bring the potential tying run to the plate.

Imagine Olsen’s surprise when he didn’t get the hook.

"I told him to tell all these people to save their applause because you’re getting out of it," Acta said.

Olsen pitched into the ninth inning, newly acquired Nyjer Morgan had three hits and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Sunday for their second straight victory.

"It was good, it was satisfying," said Olsen. "I did OK. I threw the ball down in the zone pretty well for the most part. I kept them off-balance with the offspeed pitches. Too many walks for my liking there, but we did pretty good."

Olsen (2-4) allowed three runs and eight hits over 8 2-3 innings, prevailing for the first time since returning June 28 from the 15-day disabled list after a bout with left shoulder tendinitis. He walked five and struck out five.

"Today, he was the old Scott Olsen," Acta said. "He was throwing 90 mph after 100 pitches in the ninth inning."

The only thing that eluded Olsen was his first career complete game.

"I got a glance at my pitch count in the seventh or so, and I saw it was low, so I knew I had a chance. It kind of fell apart pretty quickly in the ninth inning. ... It gave me confidence that (Acta) had confidence in me," Olsen said.

Olsen helped his own cause with his first two hits of the season, including an RBI single. But he was removed after Nate McLouth’s two-out, two-run homer in the ninth cut the lead to two runs.

Derek Lowe (7-7), who signed a four-year, $60 million free-agent contract with the Braves in the offseason, lost for the fourth time in his past five starts. The right-hander lasted 5 1-3 innings, allowing four runs and 10 hits.

"It’s been kind of the theme over the last four weeks. It just seems like a struggle every time out," Lowe said. "It’s definitely been a frustrating five or six starts."

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox isn’t overly concerned that the veteran pitcher is scuffling.

"He’s better than what he showed the last couple games," Cox said. ""My understanding is he always has this a little bit. We’ll see what happens."

Martin Prado matched a career high with four hits for Atlanta, which has dropped four straight road series.

Mike MacDougal got the final out for his fifth save.

Morgan, acquired from Pittsburgh with right-handed reliever Sean Burnett in a Tuesday trade, ended an 0-for-7 slide with his first hits as a National. He also contributed defensively, throwing out Prado trying to stretch a single into a double in the eighth after missing a diving catch in left-center.

"Pitching and defense wins games," Acta said. "(Morgan) electrifies everything."

Washington took a 1-0 lead in the first when Morgan hit a leadoff single, stole second and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s single to right.

A two-run second made it 3-0. Cristian Guzman singled with one down and scored on Ronnie Belliard’s two-out double to center, Belliard’s first RBI since June 2. Belliard moved to third on the throw home, then scored on Olsen’s bloop single to left.

Atlanta got on the board in the third when McLouth singled with one out, went to third on Prado’s double to left and scored on Chipper Jones’ sacrifice fly.

Lowe departed after loading the bases in the sixth on a Josh Bard double, a walk to Belliard and Olsen’s second single. Boone Logan relieved and got Morgan to bounce into a fielder’s choice forceout at home before Nick Johnson lined an RBI single to left for a 4-1 lead.

In the eighth, Morgan doubled home Belliard, who led off with a single and moved up on Olsen’s sacrifice bunt.NOTES: Before the game, the Nationals recalled RHP Jason Bergmann from Triple-A Syracuse to work out of the bullpen. ... Atlanta is 4-11 at Nationals Park since it opened last year. ... Before going 2 for 3, Olsen had been 0 for 10 with five strikeouts. ... Prado has hit safely in nine of 11 games, going 22-for-43 (.512) over that span.

Regional events