for this game

Heyward homers, Braves top Nats

Apr 1, 2011 - 12:36 AM Washington, DC (Sports Network) - Jason Heyward hit a solo homer and Brian McCann went 2-for-4 with a run-scoring single, as the Atlanta Braves edged the Washington Nationals, 2-0, in the 2011 season-opener for both teams.

Derek Lowe (1-0), making his third straight Opening Day start for the Braves allowed only three hits and two walks while striking out six in 5 2/3 innings of work to pick up the win. Craig Kimbrel recorded the save with a perfect ninth.

"All in all we'll take this," Lowe said. "Got those two early runs and was able to not be in a lot of trouble, which is great for your first start."

Atlanta captured the National League Wild Card berth last year and returned to the postseason for the first time since 1995. The Braves then fell to eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants in four games in the NL Division Series.

New manager Fredi Gonzalez has big shoes to fill, taking over for Braves legendary skipper Bobby Cox, who retired at the end of the 2010 campaign.

The Braves began a season without Cox as their manager for the first time since 1989, one year before Cox began his second tenure with the club. In total, he led the Atlanta franchise for 25 seasons, winning over 2,000 games, five National League pennants and the 1995 World Series before calling it quits.

Gonzalez was hired on October 13 after being fired by Florida in June. He spent four season's on Cox's staff from 2003-06 and went 276-279 during his three-and-a-half year tenure with the Marlins.

Danny Espinosa had two of the five hits for the Nationals, who are looking to rebound from a brutal 69-93 season a year ago that saw them finish in the basement of the NL East.

The club's top free agent acquisition, outfielder Jayson Werth, went 1- for-4. He agreed to a whopping seven-year, $126 million deal in the offseason after spending the previous four years with Philadelphia.

Livan Hernandez (0-1), making his fourth Opening Day start for Washington, worked 6 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits with three strikeouts.

"I thought Livan was outstanding," said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. "Seemed like everywhere we played, they hit it somewhere else."

Chipper Jones, who had his 2011 season cut short due to left knee injury surgery, doubled to right with two outs in the top of the first and came around to score on McCann's single up the middle.

Werth got the first hit of the season for the Nationals, a one-out single to center in the home half, and took third on Ryan Zimmerman's base hit to right. Lowe, however, retired the next two batters to keep his club in front 1-0.

Heyward lined a curveball into the right-field seats leading off the second. It was the second time in as many season openers the second-year big leaguer has homered in his first at-bat of the year. The only other player to accomplish the feat was Kaz Matsui in 2004 and '05 with the New York Mets.

Both starters limited the baserunners for the next four-plus innings and it remained a 2-0 game.

Lowe issued a two-out walk to Zimmerman in the sixth and was lifted after throwing 105 pitches in favor of left-hander Eric O'Flaherty, who served up a single to Adam LaRoche, but got Mike Morse to ground into a forceout, ending the inning.

Meanwhile, Hernandez retired 15 straight batters before McCann broke the string with a base hit leading off the seventh. He retired the next batter before the bullpen took over and work out of the inning.

Peter Moylan came on for the Braves in the seventh and stranded a runner on third with two away and Jonny Venters worked a perfect eighth.

Kimbrel was summoned to the hill for the home ninth and set down the side in order to lock down the win for the Braves.

Game Notes

Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez played in his 2,500th game...Washington won the season series with Atlanta last year, besting its NL East rival in 10 of the 18 meetings...The Nationals fell to 1-6 on Opening Day, while the Braves improved to 21-25 since moving to Atlanta...Jones finished 2-for-4 with a run scored in the win...Braves second baseman Dan Uggla picked up in an offseason trade with the Marlins, went 0-for-4.