- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Atlanta Braves are in for a long, hot weekend in Washington unless they can cool off Bryce Harper and Nationals.

Harper drove in five runs with three hits, and Danny Espinosa also homered twice as the Nationals powered past the Braves 9-2 on Friday night.

“I thought it was a really, really good baseball game for about six and a half innings,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said after Washington broke open a one-run game late.

On Wednesday, Harper homered his first three times up and drove in five runs against Miami.

The Nationals were off Thursday, and returned to action with their eighth win in 10 games. Harper has 10 home runs this season, along with those 10 RBIs in his last two games.

“That’s a special month for a lot of people and he’s done it in two days,” Braves star Freddie Freeman said.

Gonzalez was at least able to maintain his sense of humor about the problem.

“Maybe tomorrow we’ll tell him what’s coming, and we’ll get him out of his hot streak right now,” he said. “You can tell from the dugout his head’s not moving, he’s right there, he’s locked in.”

Harper hit a two-run homer in the sixth off Eric Stults (1-3), giving Washington a 3-2 lead. He hit a three-run drive deep into the right-center field stands in the eighth against Williams Perez, who was making his major league debut.

“Stults did a terrific job, gave us a really good opportunity to win the ball game,” Gonzalez said of his starter, who allowed three runs on seven hits over six innings.

Jayson Werth added a solo home run as the Nationals backed Gio Gonzalez (3-2). Gonzalez pitched seven solid innings after going 0-7 in his previous eight starts against Atlanta. He allowed five hits overall while striking out eight and walking one.

Freeman continued his success against Washington, doubling twice and driving in a run. He is 10 for 17 vs. the Nationals this year and 42 for 91 over the past two seasons.

Atlanta led 2-0 after three innings.

Freeman’s double in the first set up Jonny Gomes’ sacrifice fly. Freeman doubled home a run in the third.

The 23-year-old Perez, who began playing in the minors with Atlanta in 2009, recorded only one out while giving up four runs on two hits and two walks.


Braves: Andrelton Simmons has hit in seven straight, going 11 for 24 (.458) three doubles, a triple and a home run.

Nationals: Wilson Ramos extended his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest of the season for Washington. He’s hitting .413 (19 for 46) during the streak.


Nationals: Werth returned after missing two games with a sore shoulder, the lingering effect of offseason surgery.


Braves: Julio Tehran (3-1, 3.82) was spotted a 9-2 lead April 28 against the Nationals. He wound up with a no-decision after allowing seven runs - three earned - and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings as Washington rallied for a 13-12 win.

Nationals: Doug Fister (2-1, 2.61) looks to win again at Nationals Park. Since joining the team prior to last season, he’s 9-2 with a 1.98 ERA at home.

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