8:42 PM PDT, August 3, 2011
Pitching in the big leagues for the second time since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2009, Chien-Ming Wang lasted longer and allowed fewer earned runs than in his season debut with the Washington Nationals.
The result was the same, though, and thus the two-time 19-game winner remains in pursuit of his first victory in more than two years.
Wang gave up six runs, two earned, in five innings Wednesday in a 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves. It wasn’t an outstanding outing by any definition, but it was an improvement over his debut five days earlier, when the right-hander allowed four earned runs in four innings against the Mets.
“Everything was a lot crisper. He looked stronger,” manager Davey Johnson said. “I thought his ball was moving more. I was pleased.”
Were it not for a three-run homer by Dan Uggla and his own costly error, Wang might have secured his first win since June 28, 2009, with the New York Yankees. Instead, he was the main culprit in a defeat that ended Washington’s four-game winning streak.
“I didn’t complete my job today,” he said through an interpreter. “I didn’t help the team to win the game.”
Jayson Werth homered and Ryan Zimmerman had two hits for the Nationals, who got four perfect innings from the bullpen after Wang left.
But by then the damage was done.
Uggla extended his career-best hitting streak to 25 games, Freddie Freeman had two hits and two RBIs, and Braves held on to avoid a three-game sweep.
Uggla went 2 for 4, including a homer that put the Braves up 6-0 in the fifth inning. His hitting streak is Atlanta’s longest since Marquis Grissom put together a 28-game run in 1996, and it comes from a batter whose average was an anemic .173 on July 4.
“You don’t explain it. You believe the back of the baseball card. You believe the history,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “For whatever reason, who knows, we’re all human, maybe the first two months there was some anxiety or pressure about coming over to a new organization. “
Freeman has hit in 18 consecutive games, the longest streak in the majors this season by a rookie.
Braves rookie Brandon Beachy (5-2) took a four-hit shutout into the sixth but failed to get another out.
A walk, two singles, two wild pitches and a two-run homer by Werth pulled Washington to 6-4, and after reliever Anthony Varvaro walked Laynce Nix, rain delayed the game for 22 minutes.
“The rain didn’t help us any,” Johnson said.
Atlanta held on, remaining one of only two teams in the majors (with Philadelphia) that hasn’t been swept this season in a series of at least three games.
Rookie Craig Kimbrel, the fourth Braves reliever, worked a perfect ninth for his 32nd save in 37 tries.
The fifth inning began with a throwing error by Wang, which enabled Beachy to reach second base. Beachy was eventually thrown out at the plate while trying to score on a one-out grounder to third. But Freeman followed with an RBI single and Uggla drove a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats. It was his 23rd homer and third in two games.
“Just that one pitch changed the game,” Wang said.
The Braves jumped on top with a two-run first inning ignited by newcomer Michael Bourn, obtained Sunday in a five-player trade with Houston. After getting a leadoff single, Bourne notched his major-league leading 40th stolen base before scoring on a groundout by Freeman. Uggla then beat out a bouncer to third, advanced on a walk and came home on a two-out single by Alex Gonzalez
Beachy, who blanked Florida on two hits over 7 1-3 innings in his previous outing, extended his run of success until stumbling in the fifth. He allowed four runs and seven hits over five-plus innings.
NOTES: Zimmerman has hit in 12 straight games, the team’s longest streak of the year. He has seven multi-hit games during that span. ... Freeman has reached base in 40 of his past 44 games. He and Uggla own the two longest current hitting streaks in the majors. ... The Braves get Thursday off before opening a three-game road series against the Mets. ... After a 4-5 homestand, the Nationals send Ross Detwiler (1-0) to the mound Thursday night to open a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies. Detwiler, who is usually used out of the bullpen, will be making his first start since July 5.