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Braves’ rotation thrives — and it could get better

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) is congratulated by Atlanta Braves catcher Gerald Laird (11) after scoring a run against the Washington Nationals during the sixth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 2-1. (USA TODAY Sports: Brad Mills)

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) is congratulated by Atlanta Braves catcher Gerald Laird (11) after scoring a run against the Washington Nationals during the sixth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 2-1. (USA TODAY Sports: Brad Mills)

WASHINGTON — The Atlanta Braves lost the series finale Sunday against the Washington Nationals, but their season-opening road trip was still a success.

Atlanta went 4-2 in Milwaukee and Washington, taking two of three in each series.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez pointed out that in the only two losses to date, the Atlanta pitching staff gave up just two runs each time.

The Braves own a team ERA of 1.56, the second-best mark in the majors, trailing only the Brewers’ 1.45 ERA.

Atlanta left-hander Alex Wood gave up just two runs in seven innings Sunday, but a long, seventh-inning homer by Washington shortstop Ian Desmond was the difference.

“He gave us a great opportunity to win the game,” Gonzalez said of Wood.

Not only are Atlanta’s current starters performing well, but reinforcements are on the way. The Braves were encouraged by minor league rehab outings Thursday by lefty-hander Mike Miner and right-hander Gavin Floyd.

Right-hander Ervin Santana also slated to make his Braves debut Wednesday against the Mets. He signed late in spring training to provide pitching depth, and the organization had him open with a minor league outing to get him fully up to speed.

If the new arrival and returnees pitch as well as the existing members of the rotation, the Braves’ starting staff could be a formidable unit all season.

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RECORD: 4-2

STREAK: Lost one

NEXT: Tuesday — Mets (RHP Bartolo Colon, 0-1, 4.50 ERA) at Braves (RHP Aaron Harang, 1-0, 0.00 ERA)

PLAYER NOTES:

—C Gerald Laird got the start in the series finale at Washington, and he went 1-for-4. He was third catcher to start in the three-game set, following Evan Gattis and Ryan Doumit. Some teams only carry two catchers, but since Gattis can play multiple positions and has power, the Braves like to get his bat in the lineup.

—LHP Alex Wood allowed just two runs in seven innings Sunday, but he gave up a long leadoff homer to start the seventh to Washington SS Ian Desmond. The blast was the difference in the Braves’ 2-1 loss. “I left it up and over the plate,” Wood said. “He got a good piece of it.”

—RHP Aaron Harang will get the start Tuesday for the Braves after a day off. Harang is 1-0 with an ERA of 0.00 this season. In 10 career starts against the Mets, Harang is 4-4 with a 5.66 ERA.

—RHP Ervin Santana, who signed with the Braves on March 12, is slated to be added to the major league roster for an April 9 start against the Mets. He went 5 1/3 innings and allowed five earned runs for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday in a 12-7 win over Durham. Atlanta acquired Santana to add pitching depth after losing numerous starters to injuries in spring training.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “He gave us a great opportunity to win the game.” — Manager Fredi Gonzalez, on LHP Alex Wood, who gave up two runs in seven innings Sunday during Atlanta’ 2-1 loss to Washington.