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Nats handle Davies, Braves

WASHINGTON — Even with patchwork pitching, the Washington Nationals are suddenly winning. Ryan Church hit a go-ahead, three-run double, the Nationals’ bullpen provided five shutout innings, and last-place Washington beat the Atlanta Braves 6-4 Wednesday night for its fifth victory in six games. Church’s liner to right-center off Kyle Davies (1-2) capped a four-run fifth in which the Nationals batted around and all of the runs were unearned, thanks to second baseman Kelly Johnson’s fielding error. The big hit also helped Washington overcome a shaky first major league start by Levale Speigner, who until Wednesday had been used primarily as a long reliever in his first season above Double-A. Speigner, facing the club he grew up cheering for in Thomasville, Ga., was moved into the rotation to fill in for Shawn Hill, who’s on the disabled list. The right-handed Speigner lasted four innings, allowing at least one hit in each, and gave up four runs and eight hits. He was followed by Billy Traber (1-0), who earned the win by pitching his first inning of 2007 for the Nationals. He was called up from Triple-A Columbus earlier in the day to take the roster spot of starter Jerome Williams, sent back to the disabled list with shoulder problems one day after coming back from an ankle injury that put him on the DL. Ray King (two outs), Winston Abreu (one out), Saul Rivera (three outs), Chad Cordero (three outs) and Jon Rauch (three outs) finished up, with Rauch earning his second save. Atlanta took a 4-2 lead into the fifth, after three consecutive hits in the first inning produced two runs and a similar sequence had the same result in the fourth. Chipper Jones, who missed the previous four games with bruised hands and thumbs, doubled and scored on Andruw Jones’ two-run single in the first. Scott Thorman and Willie Harris drove in runs in the fourth. Washington’s first two runs were driven in by Ryan Zimmerman, with a double in the first and a homer to right-center on the first pitch Davies threw in the fourth. Then came the Nationals’ big fifth, which started innocently enough with former Braves outfielder Ryan Langerhans’ one-out single, followed by a walk. Davies then got Cristian Guzman to hit a seemingly routine grounder to Johnson. But the second baseman failed to glove the ball, then picked it up and dropped it, loading the bases. Ronnie Belliard then grounded to shortstop Edgar Renteria, who threw to second for the inning’s second out, but the relay to first wasn’t in time, allowing a run to score. Davies then walked Zimmerman, reloading the bases for Church, who cleared them to give him a team-leading 18 RBIs. He had been 13-for-60 (.217) in his past 19 games. That was it for Davies, who went 4 2-3 innings, allowing six runs — two earned — and five hits. Notes: The Braves have lost three of four games. ... LHP Macay McBride was recalled from Triple-A Richmond before the game. Braves put LHP Gonzalez on DL The Atlanta Braves put left-hander Mike Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left elbow and recalled lefty Macay McBride from Triple-A Richmond before Wednesday night’s game against the Washington Nationals. The Braves did get some good news: Third baseman Chipper Jones was back in the starting lineup after missing four games with hand and thumb injuries, and John Smoltz said he’ll be able to make his next start against the Boston Red Sox after hurting his throwing hand Monday. Gonzalez, who is 2-0 with two saves and a 1.59 ERA, left Tuesday’s 6-2 victory over Washington after two-thirds of an inning, when his velocity dropped. After the game, he told manager Bobby Cox he was fine — but a few minutes later, Gonzalez felt arm spasms while in the shower. Gonzalez is to have an MRI exam Thursday in Atlanta. ‘‘It’s hard to explain,’’ Cox said. ‘‘He didn’t feel any pain whatsoever.’’ McBride was with Atlanta for five games this season before being optioned to Richmond on April 14. Jones returned to his customary No. 3 spot in the batting order against the Nationals after X-rays on his right wrist Tuesday showed no structural damage. Jones, hitting .303 with a team-high 10 homers, was sidelined after colliding with Pittsburgh third baseman Jose Bautista in a game Friday. Smoltz (5-2) threw a side session before Wednesday’s game. He said that while he still felt some soreness in his dislocated right pinky, he felt comfortable with all of his pitches.

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