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Braves' losing streak hits 6 with 8-4 loss to Nats

Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Bourn (24) misplays a ball hit for an RBI triple by Washington Nationals' Rick Ankiel (24) in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, May 26, 2012, in Atlanta. Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Bourn (24) misplays a ball hit for an RBI triple by Washington Nationals' Rick Ankiel (24) in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, May 26, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
By Charles Odum
AP Sports Writer / May 26, 2012
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ATLANTA—The Braves' longest losing streak this season and a series of injuries and health problems have caused manager Fredi Gonzalez to reach a long way for a positive spin.

Atlanta's their losing streak reached six games Saturday with an 8-4 defeat to Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals.

"We may be the best team that's lost six in a row in the major leagues right now," Gonzalez said.

Bryce Harper homered and Danny Espinosa added a three-run drive to lead Washington's 12-hit attack. The Braves fell three games behind the Nationals in the NL East.

Before the game, the Braves placed Chipper Jones on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised left leg.

Dan Uggla's two-run, tying homer in the fifth was the big hit for the short-handed Braves.

Catcher Brian McCann is recovering from an illness and did not start. First baseman Freddie Freeman was a late scratch as he struggles with his vision while wearing contacts.

Juan Francisco had three hits, including a double off Tom Gorzelanny to lead off the ninth. Craig Stammen gave a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Jack Wilson. Tyler Clippard earned his third save by striking out Michael Bourn and ending the game on McCann's pinch-hit popout.

"We're not playing particularly well right now," Gonzalez said. "And there are no excuses. We've just need to get it going."

Strasburg (5-1) was not sharp but still won. He set a season high with four walks while giving up four runs and six hits in five innings. He had six strikeouts.

The temperature for the first pitch was 90 degrees, and Strasburg soon was shaking sweat off his right arm between pitches. The heat may have contributed to Strasburg's difficulty controlling his fastball.

"I'd try one thing and it wouldn't work and I'd try another thing and it wouldn't work," Strasburg said. "It was just one of those days. I'm not really happy with it, but the bottom line is we won."

Mike Minor gave up four runs on six hits in five innings, marking the sixth straight start he has allowed four or more runs. His ERA rose slightly to 6.98 but there are no signs the left-hander is about to lose his spot in the rotation.

"I feel like there are more positives out of this game than the previous games," Minor said. "It was another home run, it was four runs. But I feel like I pitched a lot better. I used all my pitches today."

Added Gonzalez: "There were some hurdles there you felt pretty good he cleared. ... We just keep going forward with him."

Espinosa doubled off Minor to lead off the game and scored on Adam LaRoche's fly ball. Espinosa pushed the lead to 4-0 with his three-run homer off Minor in the second.

Francisco had a run-scoring single and fill-in catcher J.C. Boscan also drove in a run in the second inning.

Atlanta pulled even at 4-4 on Uggla's homer off Strasburg. The Nationals answered with two runs off Kris Medlen (1-1) in the sixth.

Pinch-hitter Chad Tracy's double drove in Ian Desmond, who doubled. Tracy pulled up with an apparent groin injury between first and second and had to leave the game.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Tracy was hopeful he "just popped some scar tissue" and won't have to go on the disabled list.

Rick Ankiel, the pinch-hitter for Strasburg, added a run-scoring triple off the centerfield wall. Michael Bourn appeared set to make the catch before backing into the wall, losing his balance and the ball.

"The ball hitting the glove and him hitting the wall at the same time kind of jarred him," Gonzalez said.

Washington added two runs off Jonny Venters in the seventh. Harper lined his third homer over the left-field wall. Ryan Zimmerman singled and scored on LaRoche's double.

There were loud boos for Jason Heyward in the fifth inning when he bobbled a single by Harper in right field for an error and then took a lackadaisical approach to picking up the ball as Harper raced to second base. Minor pitched out of the jam.

NOTES: Johnson announced after the game RHP Chien-Ming Wang will move into LHP Ross Detwiler's spot in the rotation and Detwiler will work out of the bullpen. Wang earned the win in his season debut as he gave up one run in three innings after relieving Detwiler in Friday night's 7-4 win. ... Boscan was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett when Jones was placed on the DL. ... Atlanta RHP Brandon Beachy (1.77) and Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez (1.98) will match two of baseball's best ERAs when the teams finish the three-game series on Sunday night.

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