WASHINGTON - Tommy Hanson is a major reason why the Atlanta Braves are closing the season with a flourish. They're going to need more than Hanson's help to get into the playoffs.
The rookie pitched seven innings Saturday for his 11th win, Yunel Escobar drove in three runs and the Braves beat the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Saturday for their fifth consecutive victory.
Atlanta pulled within three games of NL wild card-leading Colorado, which was scheduled to play St. Louis later in the day. The Braves (84-70) have won 13 of 15 and are 50-30 since June 27, improving to a season-best 14 games over .500.
Hanson (11-4) allowed four hits and four runs - three of them on Mike Morse's pinch-hit homer. The right-hander, who made his major league debut on June 7, struck out seven and walked one.
'Since I've been up here, we've been playing really well,' Hanson said. 'Hopefully, we keep winning games and get lucky.'
Atlanta was six games under .500 before going on its impressive run. Besides Hanson's promotion, the Braves traded for Nate McLouth in late May and Adam LaRoche in late July.
'It's getting to be a lot more fun,' manager Bobby Cox said. 'I think we're pretty good right now.'
It's going to be difficult for Atlanta to catch the Rockies, but the Braves have four more games against the woeful Nationals, who lost for the 102nd time, matching their total from last year with eight games remaining.
Catcher Brian McCann said the 6-foot-6, 23-year-old Hanson has played a key role in launching the team into contention.
'What he brings to the team is a guy who has No. 1-type stuff,' he said.
The Braves took advantage of Washington's shoddy defense to jump out to a 5-0 lead. Yunel Escobar had a two-out, two-run single off Garrett Mock (3-10) in the first and third baseman Pete Orr's throwing error on Matt Diaz's slow roller led to two more runs.
Orr got the start in place of Ryan Zimmerman, who pinch hit in the eighth inning and flied out.
Right fielder Elijah Dukes committed the first of his two errors in the second, muffing Chipper Jones' fly ball for a two-base miscue that allowed Martin Prado to score. Dukes also committed an error in the ninth.
Washington has allowed five unearned runs on four errors in the last two games.
'If it could go wrong, it went wrong,' Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. 'Freakish things are happening.'