Atlanta Braves pitcher Kris Medlen works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA -- Pinch-runner Jeff Baker scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning when reliever Ryan Mattheus hit Andrelton Simmons' uniform with a bases-loaded pitch that helped the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 5-4 on Saturday.
Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman homered for the Braves, who have won the first two games in the series and nine of 13.
Atlanta moved within 6-1/2 games of first-place Washington in the NL East. The Braves began the game with a seven-game lead over third-place Los Angeles in the NL wild-card race.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel earned his 36th save in 39 ties after striking out the side. The game ended with pinch-runner Eury Perez at third when pinch-hitter Tyler Moore whiffed on a 97 mph fastball.
Eric O'Flaherty (3-0) faced the minimum in the eighth for Atlanta, extending his scoreless innings streak to 19 1-3 innings, a span of 22 games.
Mattheus (5-2) allowed one hit, one walk, two walks and no strikeouts.
With the game tied 4-4 in the eighth, David Ross led off the eighth with a single off Mattheus and moved to second one out later when Uggla walked. Baker pinch-ran for Ross before Chipper Jones walked to load the bases.Mattheus hit Simmons' uniform to give Simmons an RBI when Baker scored to make it 5-4.Nationals manager Davey Johnson was ejected for the first time this season for arguing what appeared to be a blown call in the sixth that led to Atlanta scoring two runs to make it 4-all.
Nationals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson knocked down Martin Prado's liner, picked up the ball off the mound and threw to first baseman Adam LaRoche.
First-base umpire Marvin Hudson ruled that Jackson's throw pulled LaRoche right foot off the bag, but television replays showed that likely wasn't the case and that Prado should've been called out.
Jackson was charged with a throwing error on the play, and Heyward, the next batter, made it 4-all with his 27th homer, a two-run shot.
Jackson gave up four hits and four runs -- three earned -- with one walk and seven strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings.
LaRoche hit his 30th homer, a two-run shot off Tommy Hanson, to make it 2-0 in the first.
The Nationals went up 4-0 in the second on two errors by the Braves.
After Jesus Flores walked with one out, Steve Lombardozzi reached when Freeman fielded his grounder near first, juggled the ball while considering a throw to second and was late to the getting to the bag.
Jackson followed with a sacrifice bunt that Hanson fielded in front of the mound. Hanson threw errantly to first and allowed both runners to score.
In the bottom of the third, Dan Uggla made it 4-1 with an RBI double.
Freeman's 20th homer, a solo shot in the fourth, cut the lead to 4-2.
Hanson, who is winless in his last six starts, allowed four hits and four runs -- two earned -- with one walk and seven strikeouts in five innings.
Jonny Venters pitched the next 1 2-3 innings for Atlanta. Peter Moylan relieved him with pinch-runner Roger Bernadina at first. Moylan gave up a single to Jayson Werth that advanced Bernadina to third.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez brought in Luis Avilan, who ended the threat with one pitch when Freeman fielded Bryce Harper's grounder and threw to second for the forceout.
Tom Gorzelanny got the final two outs of the sixth for Washington. Christian Garcia retired two batters in the seventh, but had runners on first and third when Mike Gonzalez entered and struck out Heyward.
Notes: Jones entered as a pinch-hitter for 3B Juan Francisco in the sixth and stayed in the game, going 0-for-1 with a walk. ... The Braves activated RHP Ben Sheets from the 15-day disabled list before the game. Sheets, 34, will pitch out of the bullpen for the first time in his 10-year career. ... Ross replaced Brian McCann as the Atlanta catcher before the top of the third and threw out Lombardozzi trying to steal second in the fourth. McCann left with tendinitis in his right hamstring. ... Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez will go for his 20th victory on Sunday. LHP Mike Minor pitches for Atlanta. ... The Braves won just their third series in their last 14 with Washington.