NL East Wrap: Nats use homers to pound Braves

NL East Wrap: Nats use homers to pound Braves
August 31, 2011, 5:14 am
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Nationals 9, Braves 2

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ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have some big questions in their rotation as they try to protect their big lead in the NL wild-card race.

Jair Jurrjens' second-half struggles continued as he gave up six runs, including a three-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman, and the Washington Nationals beat the Braves 9-2 on Tuesday night.

The Braves began the night 9 games ahead of San Francisco in the NL wild-card race. They fell 7.5 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East.

Zimmerman and Michael Morse each had three hits. Morse hit a homer and drove in three runs, and Danny Espinosa and Laynce Nix also hit homers for Washington.

Jurrjens was 12-3 before the All-Star break while allowing only five homers in 16 starts. He is 1-3 since the break while giving up nine homers in seven starts. He has allowed four or more runs in five of the seven starts.

The right-hander was making his first start in seven days as the Braves were coming off an unusual three-day break after two games at the New York Mets were postponed by Hurricane Irene. But he wouldn't blame his rough outing on the long layoff.

"I just left a lot of pitches up and over the middle," Jurrjens said.

Jurrjens' slump has come as another top starter, Tommy Hanson, faces an uncertain outlook for the final month and the postseason.

An MRI on Friday showed a small tear in Hanson's right rotator cuff that won't require surgery. Hanson met with Dr. James Andrews on Monday and said Tuesday he has been cleared to start rehabbing.

Hanson has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7.

Jurrjens (13-6) gave up six runs, matching his season high set in a no-decision against the Nationals on July 17. He allowed eight hits, including three homers, in six innings. He has allowed 17 runs in three starts against Washington this season.

"I look like I'm throwing batting practice against them at times," Jurrjens said. "They're making adjustments and I'm not making adjustments.

The Braves were shut down by Livan Hernandez (8-12). Hernandez allowed two runs on five hits and three walks in seven innings.

"My kind of game there," said Washington manager Davey Johnson. "That's what I'm talking about. I live for games like that."

Marlins 6, Mets 0

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NEW YORK -- Javier Vazquez took home the souvenir ball from his milestone strikeout and a fine bottle of wine to toast the occasion.

Vazquez allowed only three singles in seven sharp innings for his first win in more than a month and the Florida Marlins broke out of their funk with a five-run seventh to beat the New York Mets 6-0 on Tuesday night.

By fanning Lucas Duda to end the sixth, Vazquez became the 30th major league pitcher to reach 2,500 career strikeouts. After the game, he was handed a 2004 bottle of Italian wine by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

"Some gesture of the moment," Loria said.

"Thank you, Jeffrey," the pitcher responded.

Logan Morrison had a two-run single and Mike Cameron doubled to start the big rally for the Marlins, who shuffled their slumping lineup and took advantage of a defensive gaffe on Vazquez's bunt.

Mike Stanton added his 31st homer in the ninth, an opposite-field drive into the second deck in right.

"I think he has the most raw power I have ever seen," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I've never seen a guy generate that kind of power before."

Florida managed only two runs, on a pair of solo homers, while getting swept in Monday's doubleheader after both teams returned from a two-day break due to Hurricane Irene. But the last-place Marlins broke through Tuesday against familiar foil Mike Pelfrey (7-11) and won for just the fifth time in 24 games.

The Mets had won four straight following a five-game losing streak.

Vazquez (8-11) retired 13 in a row before Josh Thole's two-out single in the fifth. Finally provided some run support, he evened his career record at 160-160 with 2,500 Ks.

"I don't think I'm going to stick around for 3,000," Vazquez said. "I'm not going to play for that long. This might be it.

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