WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper sliced a two-run double to left with two outs in the eighth inning, lifting Washington past Atlanta 2-1 on Tuesday night for the Nationals’ 12th consecutive home victory against the Braves.
Harper, the reigning NL MVP, broke a scoreless tie by connecting with the first pitch delivered by left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty after righty Jim Johnson (0-2) put two runners on. The hit hooked toward the line and away from left fielder Jeff Francoeur, who dove in a bid to make a catch but had the ball go off his glove.
Harper yelled and clapped while standing on second base, and Nationals manager Dusty Baker punched the air in the home dugout.
It made a winner of Blake Treinen (2-0), who got Francoeur to ground into a bases-loaded 6-4-3 double play to end the eighth.
Treinen stayed in for the ninth but was removed after walking Gordon Beckham with two outs. Felipe Rivero then gave up Kelly Johnson’s RBI double to make it a one-run game before earning his first save of the season by striking out Mallex Smith.
On a windy night with the temperature dipping into the 50s after the first pitch, the Nationals improved to 5-1, and the Braves fell to 0-7, their worst start since opening the 1988 season with 10 losses.
Their futility in Washington is the worst stretch for the Braves on the road against one opponent since a 13-game skid at the Dodgers in 1951-52, according to STATS LLC.
Both starting pitchers were making their season debut, with Atlanta’s Jhoulys Chacin brought up from Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday and Washington’s Gio Gonzalez seeing action for the first time since a March 27 spring training exhibition because of days off for the Nationals.
And they were superb, throwing six shutout innings apiece. Chacin allowed five singles and struck out eight, walking none. Gonzalez gave up three singles, walked one and struck out four.
The Nationals wasted some opportunities on offense, including when they could have had runners at first and third with one out, but Michael A. Taylor got caught in a rundown after straying too far off first on his single in the third inning.
Then Chacin struck out Taylor to end the fifth with runners at second and third.
Lefty Oliver Perez entered in the eighth for Washington and issued two walks right away, before striking out Freddie Freeman. Perez then gave way to righty Treinen. After Adonis Garcia’s blooper landed in shallow right to fill the bases with one out, Treinen’s sinker got him out of trouble.
FEAR THE BEARD
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo’s duties apparently include more than making trades, negotiating contracts and hiring managers — he needs to keep tabs on batters’ scoreboard photos, too. After Danny Espinosa’s at-bat pic showing him with an overgrown beard was replaced by a clean-shaven version, Rizzo issued a statement via a team spokesperson Tuesday, saying: “This was my decision. I reserve the right to choose the player photos we use on the scoreboard during the game.”
Braves: CF Smith was back in the lineup a day after needing five stitches for a cut above his left eye he got while trying to steal a base during his major league debut. “I will always remember: ‘How’d you get that scar?’ ‘Same day I actually made it up to the major leagues,’” Smith said.
Washington RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 1.50 ERA) is 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA in his past three starts against Atlanta, including a 3-1 victory in this season’s second game. RHP Matt Wisler (0-0, 5.40) starts for the Braves.