WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper returned from an ankle injury to single and score as a pinch-hitter, and former Savannah Sand Gnat Roger Bernadina had a tiebreaking hit in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals earned a split of the day-night doubleheader with a 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night.
Harper injured his ankle in the opener and was lifted after the second inning. The Braves won the first game, 4-0, behind Ben Sheets' strong performance.
Bernadina started in center field in place of Harper in the second game and had five hits.
Harper entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. He singled, stole second and scored.
Former Savannah Sand Gnat John Lannan (1-0) pitched seven innings for the win. Braves reliever Cristhian Martinez (4-2) was the loser.
Washington snapped a three-game losing streak and leads Atlanta in the NL East by 2 1/2 games.
In the first game, Sheets pitched six shutout innings, and Brian McCann and Chipper Jones hit home runs.
Outdueling Nationals starter Edwin Jackson (5-6), Sheets (2-0) extended his scoreless innings streak to 12 in his return after missing last season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
"It's been a huge pickup for us," McCann said of adding Sheets to Braves rotation. "To come out here for his two starts and pitch the way he has. Hasn't given up a run, he's pounding the zone and the more you're around him the more you know why he's so successful. He's a competitor, he knows what he's doing."
The Nationals had lost three straight, including the series opener Friday night, blowing a 9-0 lead before falling, 11-10, in 11 innings.
The 19-year-old Harper fouled a bunt off his left ankle. An MRI exam revealed no break.
"(Bryce) was down hitting, trying to swing with it, and Michael Morse and LaRoche saw him and said he can't even swing. So, that's why I took him out," Johnson said.
McCann's solo homer in the second inning, his 16th of the season and seventh in his last 10 games, gave the Braves their first run. Atlanta added another in the eighth as Michael Bourn scored on a wild pitch by reliever Henry Rodriquez.
Jones, entering as a pinch-hitter in the ninth with a runner on, clobbered the first offering from Ryan Mattheus over the right field wall.
In his second start of the season and with light rain falling intermittently, Sheets threw 91 pitches, allowing five hits with six strikeouts and three walks.
"If you're asking me if I'm surprised I haven't given up a run, yeah," Sheets said. "I'm not surprised that I'm getting people out. I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think I could get anybody out."
The Nationals put runners on in five of the opening six innings. Three times, they had two men on base, but could not capitalize.
Sheets threw a fastball past Adam LaRoche, striking out the slugger with two on to end the first. With runners on the corners and one out in the third, he induced Michael Morse into a double-play grounder.
After allowing a single and one-out walk in the sixth, the 33-year-old nimbly recorded the final two outs, including another strikeout of LaRoche.
"I had a couple of chances to drive some guys in," said LaRoche, who denied any carryover factor from Friday's stunning loss. "(Morse) hits a ball on the screws into a double play. One of those nights, just didn't get enough going."