published Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves split doubleheader

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Randall Delgado delivers in the first inning during the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, Saturday, July 21, 2012, in Washington.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Randall Delgado delivers in the first inning during the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, Saturday, July 21, 2012, in Washington.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper returned from an ankle injury to single and score as a pinch-hitter, and Roger Bernadina had a tiebreaking hit in the seventh inning as the Washington Nationals earned a split of the day-night doubleheader with a 5-2 victory Saturday night.

Harper injured his ankle in the opener and was lifted after the second inning. The Braves won the first game 4-0 behind Ben Sheets’ strong performance.

Bernadina, who entered as a defensive replacement after Harper fouled a bunt off his left ankle in the first inning of the first game, had five hits on the day including a seventh inning, go-ahead RBI single in the nightcap.

In between games, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said the MRI on Harper showed no break. He kept the 19-year-old out of the starting lineup for Game 2.

Harper entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth with the Nationals leading 3-2.

The first-time All-Star singled, stole second and scored on Danny Espinosa’s single to right. Harper stayed in the game in right fielder in the ninth.

Espinosa eventually scored on shortstop Paul Janish’s fielding error.

John Lannan (1-0) pitched seven innings for the win.

Washington snapped a three-game losing streak and lead Atlanta in the NL East by 2 1/2 games.

Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth for his 16th save.

Cristhian Martinez (4-2) allowed a run in 1 1-3 innings of relief behind starter Randall Delgado.

In the opener, Sheets pitched six shutout innings, Brian McCann and Chipper Jones homered. Outdueling Nationals starter Edwin Jackson (5-6), Sheets (2-0) extended his scoreless innings streak to 12 in his return after missing last season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Harper gave signs that he would play in the second game when he stepped into the on-deck circle in the seventh.

After Sandy Leon’s leadoff single and with the scored tied at two, Johnson instead turned to pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa, whose sacrifice bunt advanced Leon to second. One out later, Bernadina’s grounder into right field scored Leon.

Harper’s failed bunt attempt came in the bottom of the day’s first inning. Limping and doubled over in pain for several moments, he completed the at-bat by striking out. Harper returned to center field in the second inning, but Bernadina replaced him on defense for the top of the third with the Nationals trailing 1-0.

“(Bryce) was down hitting, trying to swing with it, and Michael Morse and LaRoche saw him and said he can’t even swing. So, that’s why I took him out,” Johnson said.

Riding the momentum of the earlier win — their third straight — the Braves jumped ahead 2-0 in the first. Batting with one on and two out, Chipper Jones stroked Lannan’s first offering into the right-center gap for two-out, RBI double. Freddie Freeman followed with an RBI hit.

Jones hit a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the first game.

Recalled from Triple-A Syracuse, Lannan settled down and held the Braves scoreless over the next six innings. Despite a 4.89 ERA in the minors, the Nationals’ leader with 10 wins last season allowed only five hits over seven innings. He walked two, struck out three and hit two batters before the sellout crowd of 40,007.

Including Friday’s loss, the Nationals failed to score for 15 innings before scratching across a run in the fifth and six innings against Delgado. Trailing 2-0, Espinosa raced home from third with two outs in the fifth on a wild pitch.

Washington loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth on two singles and a hit batter. Ian Desmond’s RBI groundout tied it at 2.

Also brought up from the minors to pitch game two, Delgado allowed two runs and six hits over six innings.

In his second start of the season and with light rain falling intermittently, Sheets threw 91 pitches, allowing five hits with six strikeouts and three walks.

Jackson struck out nine to match his season high while allowing five hits and two walks over seven innings. His one mistake was McCann’s solo homer in the second inning, the 16th of the season for the Braves catcher and his seventh in 10 games.

Atlanta added another in the eighth as Michael Bourn scored on a wild pitch by reliever Henry Rodriquez. Jones, entering as a pinch-hitter in the ninth with a runner on and hit the first offering from Ryan Mattheus over the right field wall.

NOTES: With three RBIs, Jones has 1,601 for his career. ... Nationals OF Steve Lombardozzi and Freeman had their hitting streaks end at 13 and 11 games, respectively in the opener. ... Nationals OF Jayson Werth (wrist) finished 1 of 3 with a walk in his first rehab assignment at single-A Potomac.Braves starter Jair Jurrjens faces Ross Detwiler in Sunday’s series finale.

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