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Nats close in on NL East title with win over Braves

Sep 16, 2014 - 3:37 AM Atlanta, GA ( - Stephen Strasburg overcame some bad history at Turner Field with seven scoreless innings and the Washington Nationals inched ever so close to clinching the NL East with a tight 4-2 victory over the sinking Atlanta Braves.

Strasburg (12-11) came into the opener of this three-game series with an ugly 6.99 ERA in seven career road starts against the Braves, but the hard-throwing righty surrendered just five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven.

"He's a pretty good pitcher," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said of Strasburg. "He had some good stuff tonight."

Strasburg also added an RBI single while Wilson Ramos hit a solo homer for the Nationals, who trimmed their magic number for clinching the division to two.

On the opposite end of the Strasburg's gem was Ervin Santana (14-9), who allowed two runs on just three hits and two walks over six quality frames.

Atlanta has dropped seven of its last eight games, including getting swept by the MLB-worst Rangers over the weekend, and sits 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates for the final wild card spot in the NL.

Despite their recent struggles, the Braves rallied with two runs in the ninth and had the tying run in scoring position. Justin Upton hit an RBI double, and Drew Storen was called in to replace Rafael Soriano with two on and two outs.

Christian Bethancourt singled through the middle to knock in another run, and Bethancourt advanced to second on a wild pitch with B.J. Upton at the plate.

Upton, though, grounded one sharply to short and did not beat Ian Desmond's throw to first even though Desmond dropped the ball and was slow to recover.

"I was just trying to keep the ball in front," Desmond said of the final play. "I looked up and (Upton) was still coming down the line and I figured I had a chance. Might as well try it."

Storen was credited with his sixth save.

Ramos walked to open the third and came around on Denard Span's double just inside the right-field line with two outs.

Santana worked around a leadoff double in the fourth, but Ramos hammered a leadoff blast against him an inning later.

Strasburg's worst throw came in the fifth when he tried picking off Jason Heyward at first. Heyward cruised to third as the ball got past Adam LaRoche, but Strasburg stranded him there by retiring Johnson, Bethancourt and B.J. Upton to keep Atlanta off the board.

Atlanta's Freddie Freeman and manager Fredi Gonzalez were both ejected after Freeman was called out on a strikes on a high payoff pitch to end the sixth. Freeman slammed his bat on the ground in disgust and was immediately tossed.

A two-out double by Asdrubal Cabrera kept Washington's seventh inning alive, and Strasburg followed with a bloop single to center to make it a 3-0 game.

Nate Schierholtz tacked on another two-out, run-scoring hit in the eighth.

Game Notes

Washington has homered in 20 consecutive road games, the longest streak in MLB this season and just four games shy of matching the MLB record ... Santana, who was 7-0 in his previous eight home starts, struck out six and is two strikeouts shy of 1,500 in his career ... Before getting ejected, Freeman extended his hitting streak to 11 games ... Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper exited early because he was feeling light-headed.