Late extra-base hit by Bryce Harper downs Braves again 2-1

Bryce Harper went hitless on Monday night.

That is not going to happen very many times.

Battling in a scoreless duel with the Braves, the Nationals slugger laced a double down the left field line in the eighth inning to score two runs as the Nationals downed Atlanta 2-1.

Bryce Harper set bat white.jpgChants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" erupted from a few of the 18,378 faithful on a chilly Tuesday night.

Blake Treinen (2-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings for his second win. The Braves tallied a run in the ninth. Felipe Rivero recorded the final out for his first save, but allowed an RBI double to Kelly Johnson.

The Nationals handed the Braves their 12th straight loss in D.C. It was Harper's 101st double of his career.

Eight days into the season, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez and Braves right-hander Jhoulys Chacin had yet to make their first starts of the season.

So if the pair were a little rusty on a cold Tuesday night in D.C., it certainly would be understandable.

Gonzalez last pitched in a competitive game March 27, while Chacin made a Triple-A start April 7.

Instead, both were outstanding. Each hurled six scoreless innings.

Atlanta looked like they might be able to take advantage of Gonzalez's recent inactivity in the second inning.

Gonzalez got out of an early jam. A base hit by Jeff Francoeur and a rare fielding error by Danny Espinosa had Atlanta in business. But Gonzalez struck out Tyler Flowers and then induced a pair of fly balls to end the threat.

A promising third inning ended abruptly for the Nationals against Chacin. With one out, Gonzalez smacked a clean single to right field in his first at-bat of the season. He was 4-for-43 (.093) last season. Michael A. Taylor followed with a single but then was caught in a rundown between first and second. Anthony Rendon struck out to end the rally attempt.

Gonzalez was able to help his own cause with a big play in his fifth inning at-bat. Following base hits by Jayson Werth and Jose Lobaton, he laid down a perfect 1-4 sacrifice to move the runners into scoring position. But with two outs, Taylor struck out to end the frame.

Gonzalez went six innings, allowing three hits with no runs, one walk and four strikeouts. He tossed 95 pitches, 61 for strikes.

Atlanta wasted a big chance in the late innings.

The Braves put two men on with no outs in the eighth on a pair of walks by reliever Oliver Perez. Perez answered back by striking out the dangerous Freddie Freeman. But Adonis Garcia's bloop single off of Treinen loaded the bases.

Daniel Murphy then turned in an outstanding 6-4-3 double play on a slow roller from Jeff Francoeur to end the best opportunity of the night for the Braves.

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