WASHINGTON — Spacious and aging RFK Stadium, down to the final homestand of its baseball life, had a rare night as a home-run-hittin’ ballpark.
Two players hit their first homers of the season, another player hit No. 2, and Chipper Jones clobbered No. 26 Saturday night as the Washington Nationals put another dent into the Atlanta Braves’ fading playoff hopes with a 7-4 victory.
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Jason Bergmann (5-5) pitched 6 innings to win his third straight start, and D’Angelo Jimenez took advantage of a rare spot in the lineup to get three hits and increase his average from .176 to .208.
The Nationals beat Atlanta starter Lance Cormier (2-6) for the second time in less than a week, keeping the Braves 8 games behind the NL East leading New York Mets and at least 4 behind San Diego in the wild card race.
Four home runs might not seem like a lot by modern-day standards, but it was a long-ball treat that tied the season high at a ballpark that has averaged about 1 per game this season and has been one of the stingiest for power hitters since baseball returned to the nation’s capital in 2005.
It’s one reason why the Nationals can’t wait to move into their cozier new stadium next season — they even got a taste of the new place when several players held batting practice there on the under-construction dirt field early Saturday afternoon.
The Braves loaded the bases in the ninth off Chad Cordero with two hits and a walk, but Jones hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game. It was Cordero’s 34th save.
Jimenez started the parade in the bottom of the first with his first home run since April 16, 2006 — a span of 125 at-bats. His two-run shot drove in Nook Logan, who had reached on an error by second baseman Kelly Johnson. Jimenez was starting in place of slumping Felipe Lopez, who had a 45-minute pep-talk meeting with manager Manny Acta before the game.
Jones parked a three-run golf shot in the third inning to give the Braves a 3-2 lead, but pinch-hitter Robert Fick chased Cormier with another three-run golf shot in the bottom of the inning. Fick fouled off six pitches before hitting his second homer of the year and only the third home run in 217 pinch-hit appearances for the Nationals this season.
Cormier failed to retire a hitter in the third inning in his shortest outing as a starter this season. He allowed three hits, five runs — four earned — and walked four.
Corky Miller got a run back for the Braves with his first major-league homer since May 26, 2002, a drive beyond the left-field wall in the fourth inning.
Bergmann allowed eight hits and four runs before Washington’s bullpen took over with another shutout performance. Arnie Munoz, Jon Rauch and Cordero finished the job.
Notes: Nationals 1B Dmitri Young was hit in the head by a bad-hop ground ball in the third inning. He remained in the game but was removed for pinch-hitter Fick in the bottom of the inning. The Nationals said Young had a stiff neck and a slight headache and would be listed as day-to-day. . . . Atlanta reliever Buddy Carlyle hyperextended his right elbow while swinging the bat in the fourth inning. He was removed from the game after throwing his warmup pitches when he came out for the fifth. . . . Atlanta SS Edgar Renteria took over the lead for the NL batting title, going 3-for-4 to increase his average to .337. . . . Jimenez had an unusual at-bat in the third inning. He hit a ground ball that struck first base and went into the outfield. Jimenez stretched the hit into a double, then went to third on RF Jeff Francoeur’s throwing error. . . . Miller’s last home run came for Cincinnati against Atlanta, with Greg Maddux on the mound.