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Olsen comes off DL, leads Nationals over Braves 5-3
As Atlanta Braves' Brent Clevlen (27) slides into second base, Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (6) turns a double play off a ball hit by Braves' Matt Diaz during the eighth inning of a baseball game on Thursday, July 29, 2010, in Washington. The Nationals won 5-3. - photo by Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Chipper Jones can think of one thing that might stem the struggles his Braves are going through at the moment.

"Get us back to Atlanta. Please. At some point soon," Jones said. "The road has been our nemesis all year. We haven't swung the bat or we haven't pitched. That trend continues."

Sorry, Chipper: Your team's current road trip lasts another three games, with Cincinnati the next stop. The NL East-leading Braves have lost four of their past six games, falling to the last-place Washington Nationals 5-3 Thursday.

Scott Olsen returned from the disabled list to win his first appearance in more than two months, and Adam Dunn and Ian Desmond each homered and doubled for the Nationals.

The Braves are 34-13 at home, 24-30 everywhere else.

They lost two of three games in the series at Washington, dropping to 19-19 against NL East opponents, their worst mark against any division this season.

"Bottom line is, we came in here and, in 27 innings, scored six runs," said Jones, who went 0 for 4 Thursday. "That's not going to cut it."

Indeed, the Braves were shut out in the series opener Tuesday, when Washington's rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg was scratched at the last minute and replaced by 39-year-old journeyman reliever Miguel Batista. Strasburg went on the 15-day disabled list Thursday because of inflammation in his pitching shoulder, a move that created room on the roster for Olsen (3-2).

A week ago, Atlanta held a season-high seven-game lead over the two-time defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies. But that advantage was down to 3½ games heading into Thursday, when the Phillies bolstered their rotation by getting Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros in a trade.

"We're still in first place right now, but we've got a long way to go," said Derek Lowe (10-9), who went five innings and allowed four runs. "They're definitely a better team with him, no doubt about it."

Olsen gave up three runs — two earned — and five hits in six innings before a thunderstorm caused a 1½-hour delay.

The lefty hadn't pitched for Washington since May 21; he went on the disabled list the next day with tightness in his throwing shoulder.

"To know the amount of work, the effort that you had to go through — at least you're doing it for something," said Olsen, who had season-ending left shoulder surgery in July 2009.

He departed in favor of Sean Burnett, who combined with Drew Storen and closer Matt Capps for three scoreless innings of relief. Capps earned his 26th save in 30 chances.

Atlanta failed to score a single run in 11 2-3 innings against Washington's bullpen in the series.

"We're not outslugging anybody right now, that's for sure," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Washington's No. 8 hitter, backup catcher Wil Nieves, bounced a two-run single up the middle off Lowe in the fourth inning, breaking a 2-all tie.

By going 1 for 3, Nieves raised his batting average to .187.

"The one ball that really killed us was the .180 hitter in their lineup drove in two runs," Cox said.

Desmond hit his seventh homer in the second, while Dunn's 24th came in eighth off Takashi Saito.

"We've got to find a way," Lowe said, "to get back on track."

NOTES: The Nationals said that Miss Iowa, Katherine Connors, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Friday's game against the Phillies — a few days after Batista made reference to her as part of a self-effacing joke. On Tuesday, many in the crowd of more than 40,000 booed when told Batista would be replacing Strasburg. "Imagine," Batista said that night, "if you go there to see Miss Universe and you end up having Miss Iowa — you might get those kind of boos." ... Braves SS Alex Gonzalez initially was listed in the starting lineup but was scratched because he was running a high temperature. RF Jason Heyward, originally slated to get the day off, was put in the lineup, and Omar Infante switched from RF to SS. ... Entering Thursday, no major leaguer other than Desmond had made more than 16 errors in 2010.