ATLANTA - A visit from the Washington Nationals came at just the right time to fire up the Atlanta Braves.
Alex Wood said he and his teammates enjoy the playoff atmosphere that comes whenever they play Washington.
Wood set a career high with 12 strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings and the Braves beat Washington 3-1 on Sunday night to continue their recent success against the Nationals.
Atlanta won two of three in the series to cut Washington's lead to 3½ games in the NL East. The Braves are 9-4 against the Nationals this season and 22-10 over the last two years.
"It's almost like a playoff game when we play them, no matter when it is," Wood said. "I think we've got some guys that are gamers in here and really enjoy that challenge and enjoy rising to that occasion."
Wood (8-9), who allowed five hits, set another career high by throwing 124 pitches.
Justin Upton homered for the Braves, who had lost nine of their last 10.
Ian Desmond's fourth-inning homer was the only run allowed by Wood.
With the game tied 1-1, Emilio Bonifacio led off the fifth with a bunt single, despite a creative defensive effort by Gio Gonzalez (6-9). The pitcher fielded the ball with his back to first base and flipped the ball between his legs to Adam LaRoche. Bonifacio was safe despite a collision with LaRoche.
With two outs and Bonifacio on third, Jason Heyward hit a grounder to second baseman Danny Espinosa. LaRoche broke for the grounder, leaving first base uncovered because Gonzalez started running for the bag and then stopped before taking off again too late. Heyward was safe with the single as Bonifacio scored the go-ahead run.
"I should have gotten over," Gonzalez said. "There's no excuse. You've got to get over on that ball, keep your team in the game."
Nationals manager Matt Williams said Gonzalez "got caught watching the play."
"We had a shot at getting (Heyward) at first base, certainly," Williams said. "There was nobody there. Ultimately, that's the difference in the game."
Pinch-hitter Evan Gattis hit a single to right field off Jerry Blevins in the eighth to drive in Chris Johnson, who walked.
Craig Kimbrel, pitching on the third straight night, had a perfect ninth to earn his 34th save.
Gonzalez gave up two runs, six hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings. He has lost four straight starts.
Desmond led off the fourth with his 19th homer to right field. Upton tied the game in the bottom of the inning with his 21st homer.
Upton collected two career milestones with the line-drive homer. It was his 1,000th hit and gave him 500 career RBIs.