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Gio's gem helps Nats sweep Braves

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Gio's gem helps Nats sweep Braves

ATLANTA -- Bryce Harper hit his second homer in two days, Gio Gonzalez gave up only one hit in seven innings and the Nationals beat the struggling Atlanta Braves 7-2 on Sunday night to complete a three-game sweep.

Washington's first sweep at Turner Field in three years left the Braves with a seven-game losing streak, their worst skid since dropping nine straight in 2010.

The Nationals took the lead with four runs in the sixth. They scored at least seven runs in each game of the series.

At 29-18, the Nationals moved 11 games over .500 for the first time since their 2005 inaugural season in Washington.

Gonzalez (7-1) struck out 10 and outpitched Brandon Beachy (5-3) in the matchup of ERA leaders.

Gonzalez gave up two runs and three walks in seven innings. Craig Stammen allowed two hits in 1 23 innings before Sean Burnett recorded the final out.

Beachy's 1.77 ERA, the best in the major leagues, did not change as he permitted three runs -- only one earned -- on three hits and four walks in five-plus innings. He was pulled with the game tied at 2 after hitting Danny Espinosa with a pitch to open the sixth.

The Nationals jumped on former Washington pitcher Livan Hernandez following Beachy's exit. Hernandez walked Rick Ankiel on four pitches before Jesus Flores gave Washington the lead with an RBI single. Steve Lombardozzi added a two-run double.

The losing streak is having a toll on Braves fans, who booed after the hit by Lombardozzi. There were more boos from the crowd of 38,543 after Lombardozzi scored easily from second when right fielder Jason Heyward bobbled Ryan Zimmerman's single.

Flores had three hits. He left the game following his third hit in the seventh.
Harper hit his fourth homer, a high shot into the right-field seats, off Hernandez in the eighth.

The Braves scored a run without a hit in the first. Michael Bourn walked, stole second, moved to third on Tyler Pastornicky's sacrifice and scored on Martin Prado's groundout.

Atlanta added a run in the third. Bourn had a one-out triple for Atlanta's lone hit off Gonzalez and scored on Pastornicky's suicide squeeze.

Washington scored two unearned runs in the fourth. The Nationals loaded the bases on walks to Adam LaRoche and Espinosa and a throwing error by Pastornicky on Ian Desmond's grounder to shortstop. Flores drove in LaRoche with a single, and Gonzalez hit a sacrifice fly.

Pastornicky had another error in the seventh when he bobbled a grounder by Ankiel.

The Braves, who put third baseman Chipper Jones on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with a left leg contusion, remained short-handed. First baseman Freddie Freeman was held out with ongoing vision problems and catcher Brian McCann was still recovering from an illness.

Third baseman Juan Francisco did not start after manager Fredi Gonzalez said he "tweaked something" on Saturday, when he had three hits. Francisco had a pinch-hit single off Stammen in the eighth.

Washington's only other sweep this season came in a weather-shortened series. The Nationals won two games against Miami on April 20-21 before the third game was postponed due to rain.

Game notes

The Nationals had been 0-9 this season when closing out a series with a sweep on the line. ... Plate umpire Kerwin Danley went down to the ground in the third inning after he was hit in the groin area when a pitch from Beachy bounced past C J.C. Boscan. Danley remained in the game following a visit from Braves assistant trainer Jim Lovell. ... The last time the Nationals were 11 games over .500 was July 25, 2005, when they were 55-44. ... The Braves will open a three-game home series against St. Louis on Monday with RHP Tommy Hanson facing RHP Lance Lynn. The Nationals open a series at Miami on Monday. RHP Jordan Zimmerman will face RHP Carlos Zambrano.

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

WASHINGTON -- Jackson Rutledge may still be years away from the majors, but as the Nationals' 2019 first round pick toured the team's ballpark for the first time on Monday, he sure looked the part as a big leaguer.

At 6-foot-8, Rutledge towers over everyone currently on the Nationals' roster. He's got prototypical pitcher size with a fastball that reaches triple digits.

Like any pitcher recently drafted, no matter the round, there is a good chance Nationals fans will not hear Rutledge's name again for quite some time, if they hear it again at all.

In the previous eight years, the team used their first pick in the draft on a pitcher six times. Only two of them - Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde - have pitched in a Nationals uniform, and only Fedde is currently on their roster.

Rutledge, 20, will begin his journey with the Gulf Coast League Nationals. He heads there on Friday, hoping it will not be long before he is back in Washington.

"This is my first time in D.C.," Rutledge said. "Amazing stadium."

Rutledge signed his first contract with the Nationals on Monday and passed a physical in the morning. In the afternoon, he walked around the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice, introducing himself to manager Davey Martinez and players who could be his future teammates.

Rutledge has said in various interviews since being drafted earlier this month that he looks forward to playing with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, the Nationals' three ace starters. 

This was his first glimpse at them in-person.

"Meeting all the big league guys was really cool," he said. "I just want to be one of those guys that has that success."

If there was any impression Rutledge left on Monday, beyond his height, it was his eagerness to learn. He cited several of his mentors over the years, former big leaguers like Andy Benes who coached him in summer ball and Woody Williams, an assistant coach at San Jacinto Community College. He mentioned Tom Arrington, head coach at San Jacinto, and his attention to detail.

Rutledge even had praise for Ross Detwiler, a former Nationals pitcher whom they took in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He explained how Detwiler taught him a changeup grip during an offseason workout that he has continued to use.

Those are the people, he says, who helped him arrive at this unexpected place in his life as a first-round draft pick.

"If you asked me a year and a half ago where I would be, I probably wouldn't say the first round. It worked out really well because of how hard I worked," Rutledge said.

His college numbers were certainly impressive. Rutledge held a 0.87 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 13 starts. As a freshman at Arkansas before transferring, he posted a 3.45 ERA in 12 starts.

Rutledge is now looking forward to taking the next steps in his development. He said working on his curveball and changeup will be the focus while he's in the GCL. He wants to add weight and muscle to prepare for next year, his first full pro season. 

Assuming he does someday return to Washington as a big league pitcher, Rutledge said to expect a guy who likes to work fast but without a lot of emotion.

"When things are going well, I really feel in control of the game. I feel like I'm setting the game at my own pace and hitters feel uncomfortable because of that," he said. 

"I'm not a guy that's going to get up and start yelling and give energy like that, I'm more of a consistent kind of flat body language sort of guy."

Nationals fans will hope to get to know him better someday. For now, it's down to the minors to learn the ropes as a prospect.

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Victor Robles wins first career Play of the Week award

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Victor Robles wins first career Play of the Week award

For the first time in his young Major League career, Nationals rookie outfielder Victor Robles was honored with a Play of the Week award.

Thanks to his lightning speed and fearless playing style, it probably won’t be his last.

Tuesday night in Chicago, Robles found himself chasing down a Leury Garcia rocket to left-center off a Patrick Corbin breaking ball.

Robles, who had been playing Garcia in right-center, covered nearly 90 feet to make the catch, reaching a top speed of 29.9 feet per second. 

As a reference, 30.0 feet per second is considered elite. So, yeah, Robles was running pretty fast here.

The catch was so impressive it brought fans to their feet, showering Robles with a standing ovation. As a reminder, the game was being played in Chicago, not Washington, so for opposing fans to cheer it had to be a pretty special play.

Major League Baseball clearly agreed, awarding Robles for the effort.

Robles is just the second National to win the award, following Anthony Rendon late last month.

The rookie outfielder is enjoying an up-and-down season at the plate, slashing .234/.303/.402 with nine home runs and nine stolen bases.

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