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Anthony Rendon, Matt Wieters shine as Washington Nationals double up Atlanta Braves

By David Driver, The Sports Xchange
Washington Nationals Adrian Sanchez celebrates with teammate Anthony Rendon after Sanchez scored. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/5691da5bdc291633c0971bd6e6ab0819/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Washington Nationals Adrian Sanchez celebrates with teammate Anthony Rendon after Sanchez scored. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON -- If Joe Ross is pitching at home, the opposing pitcher is normally in for a long day.

And if a Ross start falls on a Sunday afternoon, the other team may as well pack their bags and head home.

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That is actually what the Braves did after Sunday's game, as the first-place Washington Nationals scored three runs in the first inning and defeated Atlanta 10-5 in the last game before the All-Star break.

Washington, now 9 1/2 games ahead of Atlanta, has scored 95 runs in the nine starts that Ross has made at Nationals Park this year.

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"We are capable of exploding for runs," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We had a good first half. We have to improve our bullpen efficiency. We just have to tighten up a few things."

With Ross on the mound, the Nationals scored 23 runs at home against the New York Mets on Sunday, April 28, 18 runs against the Cincinnati Reds at home on Sunday, June 25, and 11 runs at home on Tuesday, July 4, against the Mets. All three of those were day games as well.

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The bottom part of the batting order delivered for the Nationals, as No. 6 hitter Anthony Rendon, No. 7 Matt Wieters and No. 8 Chris Heisey all had RBIs.

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"It is not a bad place to hit behind those guys," Wieters said of Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and Rendon.

Heisey made just his third start of the year in left field after he came off the disabled list Friday.

"I felt like I was in a good place all day," he said. "It gives us some confidence going into the break. As a ballclub, we feel we could have a bigger lead" in the division.

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But this time Ross was not able to enjoy the offensive outburst, as he left with one out in the top of the fourth with the score tied at 3. Ross, who had thrown 63 pitches, was removed because of triceps tendinitis and was getting an MRI exam after the game, according to Baker.

Rendon was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Wieters drove in three runs and Murphy was 2-for-5 with two RBIs as the bottom part of the order lifted Washington.

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The Nationals are 52-36 and the Braves are 42-45.

"All in all, it was a good first half," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Realistically, we could have been over .500 this half."

The winning pitcher was Matt Grace (1-0), who came on in the fourth and allowed two runs (one earned) in 2 2/3 innings.

"I was just attacking guys and getting ground balls," Grace said.

Washington scored three runs in the first as Zimmerman had a sacrifice fly and Rendon, hitting sixth in the lineup, added a two-run double.

The Braves scored three of their own in the third as Freddie Freeman (two hits) hit a three-run homer to left to make it 3-3 against Ross.

Heisey had an RBI double in the fourth, just missing a three-run homer, to give the Nationals a 4-3 edge.

Wieters added a two-run single in the fifth against Ian Krol to push Washington's lead to 6-3.

Atlanta's Johan Camargo (3-for-3, walk) crushed his first major league homer, a solo shot off Grace, to pull the Braves within 6-4 in the sixth. Nick Markakis drove in run on a fielder's choice to make it 6-5.

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But Wieters delivered a sacrifice fly in the seventh off reliever Jose Ramirez to drive in Rendon for a 7-5 cushion before Harper (2-for-4) drove in a run with a single in the eighth and Murphy added a two-run double to make it 10-5.

Atlanta starter Sean Newcomb (1-4), facing Washington for the first time, went four innings and allowed four hits, four runs and four walks with seven strikeouts while throwing 97 pitches.

"His stuff was good today. He is learning. The walks were an issue," Snitker said.

Wilmer Difo was also 2-for-4 for Washington and Matt Adams had two hits for the Braves.

"All in all, it was a positive first half," Snitker said of his rebuilding club.

NOTES: The Washington, D.C., Sports of Hall of Fame recognized nine new inductees before the game. The list included former Washington Redskins standout Mike Nelms, former University of Maryland and Washington Bullets basketball star Tom McMillen, former NFL commissioner and Georgetown University graduate Paul Tagliabue and ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, a former columnist for The Washington Post. ... Atlanta CF Ender Inciarte, the team's lone All-Star this year, has 112 hits and leads the majors with 214 hits since the All-Star break in 2016. ... Washington OF Chris Heisey (biceps), who came off the disabled list Friday, started in left field for just the third time this season. He was 1-for-4 with an RBI.

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