Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Freddy Garcia (50) throws during the seconds game of a doubleheader the Washington Nationals on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)
WASHINGTON — Rookie right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings and the Washington Nationals added three runs in the eighth to break open a pitcher’s duel and beat the Atlanta Braves 4-0 on Tuesday to sweep a split doubleheader and keep their playoff hopes alive.
In that second game, Steve Lombardozzi had an RBI single in the second and Ryan Zimmerman crushed a solo homer, his 25th of the year, in the eighth to make it 2-0. Zimmerman has 10 homers in his last 15 games. Ian Desmond added an RBI double in the eighth to make it 3-0 against reliever Jordan Walden, and Adam LaRoche added an RBI single to account for the final margin.
Washington entered the game 4 1/2 games back of the Cincinnati Reds for the second wild card spot in the National League. The doubleheader sweep also means that the first-place Braves (89-62) can’t clinch the East division title against second-place Washington (81-70), the defending champs. The three-game series ends today.
In the first game, the Nationals scored three runs in the last of the ninth inning to beat the Braves and almost invincible closer Craig Kimbrel 6-5. The loss ended a streak of 37 straight saves converted by Kimbrel (3-3). The winning pitcher for Washington was another rookie, lefty Ian Krol (2-1).
In the late game, Roark (7-0), in his third big league start and 12th appearance, allowed just two singles and no runs in seven innings. He was lifted in the last of the seventh for pinch-hitter Chad Tracy.
Craig Stammen came on to pitch a scoreless eighth as he fanned Jordan Schafer for the final out with Elliot Johnson on second in a 1-0 game.
Washington closer Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth with a 4-0 lead in a non-save situation. He allowed two singles to lead off the inning but got a double play line drive off the bat of Evan Gattis before he got Gerald Laird to end the game.
Roark, who had a 3.15 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse this year, made his big league debut Aug. 7 against Atlanta and retired six of the seven batters he faced out of the bullpen. He entered the game with an ERA of 1.30 in 34 2/3 innings.
Atlanta starter Freddy Garcia (1-2) allowed just one run and seven hits in seven innings before Walden took over in the eighth.
Steve Lombardozzi had an RBI single in the second to score Bryce Harper, who had singled, to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead. Garcia escaped further damage when the next batter, Jhonatan Solano, lined out on a hit-and-run and Lombardozzi was doubled off first to end the inning.
The Nationals had a chance to make it 2-0 in the third but Denard Span was retired on a wild play at the plate. Span reached on a fielder’s choice and went to third on a bad throw by shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Span kept running when Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla double clutched a throw, but Span was eventually thrown on at home on a relay from Uggla to first baseman Freddie Freeman to catcher Gerald Laird.
NOTES : The scheduled starters for the series finale on Wednesday are LHP Alex Wood (3-3, 3.45) of Atlanta against Washington RHP Ross Ohlendorf (4-0, 3.15) … The Braves entered the game 6-1 at Nationals Park this season and 12-5 overall … Wilson Ramos of the Nationals was not in the starting lineup after he had made 24 starts in a row, the most of any major league catcher this year … Washington center fielder Denard Span had a single in the fifth to extend his hitting streak to 28 games, the longest in the big leagues this year.