(The Sports Xchange) - The Washington Nationals gathered momentum heading into a huge series against the New York Mets by completing an 8-4 triumph on Sunday over the Atlanta Braves.
It would have been understandable for the Nationals to let their minds drift to a potential division-deciding three-game series with the Mets, but they took care of business against Atlanta in a four-game series sweep moving to within four games of New York for the NL East lead.
“We’ve just been playing good baseball,” Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said.
”We just have to keep doing what we’re doing, keep having fun, keep having good at-bats and just be the team we are.
“We’re a great team. We have a lot of fun. We just have to worry about what we’re doing and that’s all we can ask for at the end of the day.”
The Nationals tagged Atlanta starter Manny Banuelos for seven runs in the first three innings and cruising from there.
Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth had the big blow, with a three-run homer in a five-run second inning.
Harper hit his 34th homer, his third in as many days, and second baseman Anthony Rendon added a solo shot as Washington rolled up 36 runs in the four-game series.
“It was a good series,” manager Matt Williams said. “The guys swung the bats well, pitched well. So we got these. Now we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Washington starter Joe Ross seemed in line to pick up his sixth victory of the season, but appeared to have run out of gas and lasted just 4-1/3 innings, giving up four runs on five hits while walking three and striking out none.
Five Nationals relievers, led by Felipe Rivero (2-1), held Atlanta to just two hits the rest of the way.
Williams was non-committal when asked about Ross’ role in the rotation going forward.
“That’s a big discussion for us,” Williams said. “We have to understand where he’s at, the territory he’s in and what options we have going forward.”
Left-fielder Nick Swisher drove in two runs and scored another, while A.J. Pierzynski added an RBI single.
But the Braves also committed three errors, two on back-to-back plays in the third inning.
“Today we played sloppy,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We didn’t play good baseball, but we stayed after it. It’s tough. It really is tough.”
Compiled by Greg Stutchbury