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WSH@ATL: Upton goes deep to center in the first

ATLANTA -- As he watched his offense slumber through this season's first week, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez patiently waited for somebody other than Freddie Freeman to consistently support his overachieving pitching staff.

Justin Upton has spent the past few days proving he is up to the task of helping Freeman carry the load. But he was far from the only Braves player who backed Alex Wood's determined effort in Saturday night's 6-3 win over the Nationals at Turner Field.

"Any time we can get us all clicking at the same time, it can be pretty fun to watch," said B.J. Upton, who managed to steal some of the well-deserved attention his younger brother has earned over the past few days.

Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and Freeman all recorded three-hit nights as the Braves matched the season-high hit total (13) they had produced against the Nationals exactly one week earlier. Freeman's eighth-inning solo homer helped provide some cushion for Craig Kimbrel, who worked a scoreless ninth after his bullpen mates had allowed the Nationals to tally one run in the sixth and eighth innings.

The Braves have won 17 of the 24 games played against the Nationals dating back to the start of last year. Atlanta, which will be bidding for a three-game sweep on Sunday, has won both of the first two series played between these two National League East rivals this year.

"It's never easy when you play a good club like that," Gonzalez said. "I think that we just persevered, really. [Wood] wasn't as sharp as he has been. But we swung the bats early in the first inning and gave him a nice cushion, and we were able to add on some runs."

Justin Upton, who now has three consecutive three-hit performances, delivered one of the three extra-base hits that doomed Nationals starter Taylor Jordan during a four-run first inning. B.J. Upton fueled that early eruption with a solo home run that highlighted his second two-hit game of this young season.

While Chipper Jones did not necessarily provide any new suggestions, the short tutorial he provided on Thursday afternoon has seemingly aided B.J. Upton, who has consistently made solid contact over the past few days.

"I've just got to keep it going," B.J. Upton said. "Hopefully, it will get better and some balls will start to fall a little more. I'm starting to feel better every day."

Nobody is feeling as good as Justin Upton, who has nine hits, including three home runs, in his past 11 at-bats. He doubled home a run in the first inning and notched a double in the fifth inning that put him in position to score on Dan Uggla's second RBI single of the night.

Six days after limiting Atlanta to one run in six innings, Jordan was charged with five earned runs and 10 hits over five innings. The Nationals right-hander's line could have been much worse had Ryan Doumit and Jason Heyward not recorded consecutive strikeouts to end the fifth inning with the bases loaded .

The Braves loaded the bases when first-base umpire Angel Hernandez ruled right fielder Nate McLouth did not possess Andrelton Simmons' routine fly ball long enough to record an out. McLouth dropped the ball as he transferred the baseball to his right hand to make a throw.

The Nationals were not able to request a replay review because manager Matt Williams had already unsuccessfully challenged a bang-bang play at first base on which McLouth was ruled out on a third-inning bunt.

"I'm extremely frustrated by the process at this point. If they are seeing the same feed we are seeing, I don't know how [McLouth] is out," Williams said. "So that is frustrating, because I thought he was safe. We looked at it 100 times and I believe he was safe. If that was a safe call, then we maintain our challenge."

Wood surrendered his second leadoff home run of the season and needed 103 pitches to complete five innings. But after allowing Anthony Rendon to begin the game with a solo shot to center field, the Braves' 23-year-old left-hander escaped a few potentially disastrous situations and kept the Nationals scoreless the rest of the way.

"It's one of those starts where he had to battle through all five innings, and he definitely did," Freeman said. "He's a bulldog. He goes out there and battles every night."

Wood stranded a pair of runners when he ended the third inning with consecutive strikeouts against Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond. After allowing the Nationals to put two on with none out in the fourth inning, he escaped unscathed when Bryce Harper got caught leaning too far off second base after Jordan struck out while attempting a sacrifice bunt.

The Nationals squandered another fifth-inning rally attempt when Wood picked Ryan Zimmerman off second base. Zimmerman fractured his right thumb on the play and will be out four to six weeks. Moments later, Wood notched his eighth and final strikeout of the night by getting LaRoche to look at a called third strike.

"It was definitely a pretty weird game from a lot of aspects, but somehow I managed to get through five," Wood said. "Don't ask me how if I can do it that way again, but we made it through and came out with the victory tonight." Comments