published Friday, June 20th, 2014

Floyd hurt but Braves win 3-0

Atlanta Braves' Chris Johnson hits a two-RBI single during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Thursday, June 19, 2014, in Washington.
Atlanta Braves' Chris Johnson hits a two-RBI single during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Thursday, June 19, 2014, in Washington.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WASHINGTON — Gavin Floyd, recently returned from Tommy John surgery, pitched six scoreless innings Thursday night before leaving with an elbow injury, the latest setback for an injury-riddled Atlanta Braves rotation and one that tempered a 3-0 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Floyd flexed his pitching arm awkwardly after giving up a long foul ball to Jayson Werth on the first pitch of the seventh inning. The Braves' trainer went to the mound, examined Floyd's elbow and then he left the game for reliever Anthony Varvaro.

The Braves announced that Floyd had posterior swelling in the right elbow. He was to have X-rays and then be examined by the Nationals' team doctor.

Floyd (2-2) was making his ninth start since recovering from ligament-replacement surgery. The Braves lost starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy and reliever Cory Gearrin to the same injury during spring training, upending a major plank in their plans to repeat as National League East champions.

Floyd had been working on a two-hit shutout. He needed only 64 pitches to get through six innings, walking one and striking out six to outduel Jordan Zimmerman (5-4).

The win moved the Braves within a half-game of the first-place Nationals atop the NL East as the division rivals opened a four-game series. Atlanta had been trending downward recently, losing eight of 12 games entering the series.

Chris Johnson drove in all three of the Braves' runs, two on a bases-loaded single in the fourth inning and the third on a line drive that smacked reliever Jerry Blevins' left knee in the eighth. Blevins was examined by the Nationals' trainer but remained in the game to face one more batter.

Zimmermann, coming off consecutive complete games, had his second straight hard-luck start. He lost 1-0 to Lance Lynn and the St. Louis Cardinals last Friday, and this time he allowed only two runs and seven hits through seven innings.

The Braves did their damage in the fourth with four consecutive singles. Freddie Freeman hit his to center field. Evan Gettis singled to left, extending the catcher's hitting streak to 18 games -- longest active streak in the majors and best ever by a Braves catcher. Heyward singled to center to load the bases.

That brought up Johnson, whose dribbler up the middle was just out of reach of second baseman Danny Espinosa.

Varvaro pitched the seventh, Jordan Walden worked the eighth and Craig Kimbrel struck out two in the ninth for his 21st save for the Braves, who have won 23 of 30 against the Nationals.

Braves left fielder Justin Upton was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game with an inner ear ailment causing dizziness, but he appeared as pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and grounded out.

The Braves placed right-handed pitcher Pedro Beato on the disabled list with a sore right elbow. He was called up earlier this week and pitched in relief both Tuesday and Wednesday. The Braves promoted right-hander Juan Jaime from Triple-A Gwinnett, his first call-up to the majors.

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper took on-field batting practice before the game for the first time since undergoing thumb surgery last month. He's expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment next week before rejoining the team in mid-July.

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