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Nats push to 4 back in NL East with sweep

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals completed a sweep of the Braves with an 8-4 win on Sunday at Nationals Park to move to four games behind the Mets in the National League East race.

The Mets, who lost to the Marlins on Sunday, will begin a three-game series vs. the Nats at Nationals Park on Monday.

"The games are going to be big the rest of the way. We need to win as many as we can. We have a big series coming up," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "… I've been saying all along, at some point we are going to make a run. Hopefully, this is it."

The Nationals got on the board with a five-run second off Braves left-hander Manny Banuelos. Werth highlighted the scoring with a three-run homer. In the third, Bryce Harper hit his 34th homer.

By the end of fourth inning, the Nationals had an 8-2 lead. After Nats starter Joe Ross exited the game in the fifth, Washington's bullpen blanked Atlanta for 4 2/3 innings, with Felipe Rivero picking up the victory.

The Braves have lost 12 straight games for the first time within one season since they lost 17 straight from April 23-May 11, 1977. They have also lost 19 of their past 20 games and 26 of the past 28 played on the road.

"I've never seen anything like this," Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "We'll just keep battling and wake up tomorrow and try to win."

It was the Nationals' 10th straight home victory over the Braves this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that matches a franchise record for longest home winning streak against a divisional opponent (10 games vs. the Mets, from Sept. 13, 2002 to Sept. 12, 2003).

"It was a good series against the Braves," manager Matt Williams said. "The guys swung the bats well, pitched well, so now we have a lot of work to do."

A five-spot in the second: The Nationals took a 5-1 lead in the second inning off Banuelos. In his return from a right knee injury, Michael Taylor hit a two-run double to go along with Werth's three-run blast.

Video: [email protected]: Taylor rips two-run double for a 2-1 lead

Wisler provides relief: After Banuelos showed more rust in a spot start that fell apart in the second inning and ended with him trailing 6-1 in the third, the Braves opted to begin the fifth inning with Matt Wisler, whose recent struggles were extended as he allowed seven earned runs while throwing just 48 pitches in Thursday's series opener. Making his first career relief appearance, Wisler showed more aggression as he completed two scoreless innings. He will likely rejoin the rotation later this month, but his scheduled start on Tuesday will be filled by Sugar Ray Marimon or Ryan Weber. More >

"It was a move to kind of clear my mind out and come into the game and be aggressive," Wisler said. "I finally got back to that today."

Video: [email protected]: Wisler fans Desmond in relief appearance

No victory for the rookie: Ross didn't pitch well enough to get his sixth win of the season, allowing four runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings. It didn't help that his fastball was clocked at 90 miles per hour. For Williams, it was a sign of fatigue, so the Nationals have to decide whether Ross' rookie season is coming to an end. More >

"The fact that the fastball came down is a sign that he is tired, so we'll see what the next one will hold for him." Williams said.

Swish delivers: Nick Swisher played a part in three of the four runs scored by Atlanta. After scoring Nick Markakis with a first-inning single, Swisher drew a walk that led to a fourth-inning run and capped a two-run fifth with a sacrifice fly. The veteran outfielder has batted .361 (13-for-36) dating back to Aug. 22, and he has eight hits in 18 at-bats with runners in scoring position since the Braves acquired him from the Indians on Aug. 7. More >

Video: [email protected]: Swisher lifts a sac fly to center field

"We have to keep playing our game. [The Mets] are coming into our park, so we have to keep playing our game. We know we are a great team. We keep playing like we've been doing the last couple of days and not worry about who we are playing. Just play our game." -- Harper

Harper has batted .426 with six homers and a 1.445 OPS in 67 plate appearances against the Braves this season. He will have a chance to improve these numbers during the final week of the regular season in Atlanta. The only three players to collect a higher OPS than Harper's current mark while collecting at least 50 plate appearances against the Braves in a season are Willie Stargell (1.742 in 1971), Jason Thompson (1.460 in 1982) and Carlos Beltran (1.451 in 2006).

Video: [email protected]: Harper smacks a solo homer to left-center

Braves: Williams Perez (4-6, 5.65 ERA) will take the mound when Atlanta opens a three-game series in Philadelphia on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET. The Braves have not won a road game since claiming a series-finale victory against the Phillies on Aug. 2.

Nationals: Washington opens an important three-game series against the Mets starting Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. Max Scherzer (11-11, 2.89 ERA) will look to come through for the Nats. He's been shaky in the second half, going 1-4 with a 4.85 ERA in nine starts.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All theTime. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.