published Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Ankiel slamming Braves

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    Washington Nationals third baseman Jayson Werth (28) slides safely into second as Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla misses the catch on a throwing error by Braves catcher David Ross during the second inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, at Nationals Park in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — Rick Ankiel kept up his sudden power surge, hitting a grand slam off Derek Lowe that sent the Washington Nationals over the Atlanta Braves 9-3 Tuesday night for their fourth straight win.

The Nationals have their longest winning streak since Davey Johnson became manager on June 27. Atlanta has lost three straight games.

Ankiel connected for his sixth home run of the season. He homered twice Monday night against the Braves.

Ankiel's slam highlighted a five-run burst in the fourth inning against Lowe (6-10) that put Washington ahead 6-3.

Ian Desmond hit a two-run homer in the fifth that finished Lowe. The Braves righty lost his third straight start and gave up eight runs -- seven earned -- the most he had allowed since June 7, 2010.

Desmond drove in three runs and Michael Morse hit his 18th homer for the Nationals.

Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman extended their hitting streaks to 24 and 17 games for the Braves. Those are the two longest current streaks in the major leagues. The Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman stretched his hitting streak to 11 game.

John Lannan (8-7) struck out a season-high eight batters and improved to 3-0 against Atlanta this year. He gave up three runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings.

Desmond's sacrifice fly put the Nationals ahead in the second.

Atlanta scored twice in the third on Michael Bourn's RBI double and Martin Prado's infield out, and took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on Jorge Constanza's RBI single.

Ankiel's second career slam and an RBI grounder by Lannan gave Washington the lead in the fourth. That was Lannan's fifth RBI in his last five starts, doubling his career total to 10.

Desmond's fourth home run made it 8-3.

Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones worked out before the game and said he wasn't ready to start. Jones, who strained his right quadriceps on July 25, has been restricted to pinch-hitting since then.

"I need to see what I can and can't do just to give them feedback and see where I still have pain," said Jones, noting that he hasn't noticed any improvement or regression since Monday.

Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg, recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw 51 pitches -- 32 strikes -- in a simulated start in Viera, Fla., and Johnson said catcher Ivan Rodriguez is close to being ready for a rehab assignment after being on the disabled list with an oblique injury since July 7.

Brandon Beachy is scheduled to start on the mound for the Braves this afternoon against Washington's Chien-Ming Wang. Beachy is 4-2 this season and is looking for his second straight victory after not winning his previous four starts. Wang started for the first time in more than two years on July 29 against the New York Mets and allowed six runs -- four earned -- in four innings.

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