WASHINGTON -- The Nationals tried to increase their National League East lead on Wednesday night, but Braves right-hander Kris Medlen proved to be too much as Atlanta defeated Washington, 5-1, at Nationals Park. The Nationals, who were seeking the three-game sweep, dropped their record to 77-47 and are six games ahead of the Braves in the standings.
"This is a huge game for us [after] losing the first couple," Medlen said. "This is one I was pretty nervous about when I woke up this morning, just knowing how tough a lineup that is. They hit every single mistake that you make. They've got a tough lineup and there's no breaks. I felt composed. I felt good, I'm just trying to attack the zone."
Medlen didn't look nervous on the mound, pitching seven shutout innings and allowing seven hits. The Nationals had opportunities to score against Atlanta's starter, the biggest coming in the sixth inning, when Washington had the bases loaded with one out. But Adam LaRoche popped up to first baseman Freddie Freeman, while Ian Desmond grounded into a force play to end the inning.
"I have to tip my hat to that pitcher," manager Davey Johnson said about Medlen. "He pitched one [heck] of a ballgame. He has a great curveball, he spotted his fastball, he has a great changeup. No one really saw him that good. It just reaffirmed what I said earlier: he is one heck of a young pitcher."
Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler lasted 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on seven hits. However, Johnson was not pleased that Detwiler was not mixing his pitches. Detwiler threw almost nothing but fastballs.
"You still have to have a changeup and a curveball. ... You keep seeing one pitch, I don't care how good it is, eventually, you will get hit," Johnson said about Detwiler. "I guess he got a little bit tired, too, or he was trying to hump up, the ball got up, and he started getting hit."
Detwiler appeared to disagree with Johnson's assessment of his outing.
"It's easy to say you don't throw enough breaking stuff when they are hitting fastballs," Detwiler said. "I didn't have good command of the breaking stuff. ... Overall, I didn't give our team an opportunity to win. That's what it boils down to."
At one point during the game, Detwiler retired nine hitters in a row. However, the Braves were able to get to him in the fifth inning.
The turning point of the inning came when Detwiler walked Medlen with two outs. Martin Prado followed and doubled over the head of center fielder Bryce Harper, scoring Tyler Pastornicky and Medlen to make it a 2-0 game.
Harper misplayed the ball. At first, he came in on the ball, but then had to go back for it as it went over his head for a hit.
"I thought I had a good read on it ... I rolled back as fast as I could," Harper said.
With Medlen out of the game, the Nationals scored their only run in the eighth inning. With Eric O'Flaherty on the mound, Harper scored on a single by Michael Morse to make it a 2-1 game.
The Nationals then let the game get out of hand. The Braves added to their lead in the ninth inning when David Ross hit a Tom Gorzelanny pitch for a sacrifice fly to Harper, scoring Chipper Jones. Freeman then scored on an RBI single by Michael Bourn.
Bourn would later score on a throwing error by catcher Kurt Suzuki after Bourn stole third base.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel entered in a non-save situation in the ninth and shut down the Nationals, retiring the side in order.
"We had the right people up at the right time and didn't get it done," Johnson said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.