ATLANTA -- Rio Ruiz hit a memorable first career home run and Matt Kemp also took Max Scherzer deep before stellar bullpen work helped the Braves claim a 5-2 win over the Nationals on Saturday at SunTrust Park.
The Braves took an early lead on the way to winning for the seventh time in their past nine games and extending the Nationals' season-long skid to four games. Ruiz, who sneaked a two-out, two-run homer over the right-field wall in the second inning, and Kemp, who was 5-for-40 against Scherzer before leading off the fourth with a shot into the left-field seats, put Atlanta ahead, 3-0.
"Freddie [Freeman] went down and these guys have stepped up," said Braves manager Brian Snitker, whose team has won three of four since Freeman fractured his wrist. "There wasn't anybody feeling sorry for anybody. They've just gone out and played."
Provided the early cushion, Bartolo Colon ended each of the first four innings with strikeouts and kept the Nationals scoreless until he made an errant throw to second base after fielding Scherzer's grounder for a potential inning-ending double play in the fifth. The 43-year-old hurler's miscue helped the Nationals tally a pair runs and cut the deficit to 3-2 before a one-hour, 50-minute rain delay before the start of the sixth.
After Scherzer needed 106 pitches to complete five innings of three-run ball, the Braves' bullpen preserved the lead by not allowing a hit over 4 2/3 scoreless frames. Atlanta's relievers have not allowed a hit or run over 8 1/3 innings during this series.
"We're in a tough period right now," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "Can't hang your head. I don't want these guys -- they're probably a little down -- but you gotta keep fighting because tomorrow's another day, and you just got to keep grinding. Nothing lasts forever, good and bad. Every team, every good team, is going to go on a three- or four-game losing streak. Hopefully this is the end of it tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Krol's fifth-inning rescue: After throwing Scherzer's grounder into center field, Colon surrendered consecutive RBI singles to Trea Turner and Jayson Werth. This prompted the entry of Ian Krol, who promptly subdued his former team's threat to take the lead. Krol induced Bryce Harper's weak popup, then ended the inning by getting Ryan Zimmerman to look at a 2-2 fastball that painted the inside corner.
"I think a lot of things have bounced against us in the last few days," Turner said. "It's not all bad luck. At the same time, a few things here or there gets the momentum our way, we could've won a few of the ballgames the last few days. That's just baseball. You got to roll with it, and keep moving forward."
Flowers stays hot: Braves catcher Tyler Flowers delivered a one-out single that put him in position to score on a Dansby Swanson fielder's choice that gave the Braves a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning. Flowers, who is hitting .349, then capped his ninth multi-hit game of the season with an eighth-inning solo shot off Matt Albers.
"It was huge what Ian Krol did right there. We kind of didn't make the play we should have and put ourselves in trouble, and then Ian -- that was huge right there in that game. Then the other guys came in and did a great job." -- Snitker
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
In the seventh inning, Michael Taylor made a five-star catch, as rated by Statcast™, to rob Emilio Bonifacio of extra bases. Taylor covered 62 feet in 3.7 seconds to make a grab with an 18 percent Catch Probability.
Nationals: Washington wraps up its three-game series in Atlanta at 1:35 p.m. ET on Sunday. Stephen Strasburg will try to continue his recent success against the Braves; he is 6-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 52 strikeouts in his last eight starts against them.
Braves:Jaime Garcia takes the mound when Atlanta and Washington conclude the three-game series on Sunday. Garcia has issued 14 walks over his past three starts (17 1/3 innings).
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