Power helps Traber, Nats top Braves

Power helps Traber, Nats top Braves

WASHINGTON -- Rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was in the middle of everything on Wednesday night, and, for the most part, it helped the Nationals win another game against the Braves, this time by the score of 9-6 in front of 28,094 fans.

In the second inning, Zimmerman turned an almost disastrous frame into a productive one off Braves ace John Smoltz.

The Nationals, who were already up, 2-0, had runners on first and second with one out when Felipe Lopez hit what looked like a sure double off the wall in right field. Starter Billy Traber, who was on second, should have scored easily. But he stopped at third, and Alfonso Soriano ran with his head down to third base. Soriano attempted to go back to go back to second base, but Lopez was already there. Soriano and Traber couldn't share third base, and Soriano was tagged out.

Manager Frank Robinson later asked Traber if he knew that Lopez had a hit, and Traber was honest with the skipper, who laughed after he received the answer.

"I just kind of told him, 'Yeah, [but] I haven't been to second base in a long time,'" Traber said. "I'm not very [good] at being a base runner. I'm not used to being in the box, being on base. I obviously should have scored easily."

Robinson appreciated Traber's honesty.

"What can you say?" Robinson said. "What I really like about him is, you ask him a question and he doesn't make excuses."

Traber would eventually score in the inning when Zimmerman followed and hit a ball toward third baseman Chipper Jones, who made the grab and threw wide of first baseman Adam LaRoche. Zimmerman dove to first base and was safe on the play, which was scored a base hit.

"I saw [LaRoche] kind of reached for it," Zimmerman said. "He came off the bag and I just went for it.

The Nationals were leading, 4-0, when Zimmerman helped the Braves get back into the game in the top of the fourth. Edgar Renteria led off the inning and reached first base on a throwing error by Zimmerman. The floodgates opened as the Braves scored three runs off Traber, who didn't record an out until the sixth batter of the inning, when Todd Pratt hit into a force play. Feff Francoeur scored on the play.

Like he did in the second inning, Zimmerman came through by making a spectacular diving play and throwing Smoltz out at first base to end the inning.

Asked how he was able to forget the miscue that he made earlier in the inning and make a spectacular play later to end it, Zimmerman said, "You can't do anything about it once it happens. It's not like you could think about it and let you do it over. As soon as it happens, you have to let it go and try to make the next play."

In the bottom of the inning, Zimmerman more than made up for the miscue by taking Smoltz's 2-1 pitch over the left-center-field wall for his 16th home run of the season. The Nationals led, 6-3.

Zimmerman was involved in a strange play in the sixth inning, in which the Braves scored two runs to make it a one-run game. Ryan Langerhans had already made it a 6-4 game with a single to left field.

Andruw Jones, who didn't start the last two games because of a sore left knee, came into the game as a pinch-hitter for Smoltz. With Saul Rivera on the mound, Jones hit a broken-bat ground ball to toward third base. The bat and the ball went toward Zimmerman. The barrel of the bat grazed Zimmerman's left forearm and the ball went under Zimmerman's glove for a base hit to score LaRoche.

"That was interesting," Zimmerman said. "It seems like the bat and the ball was going the same way the whole time. I really couldn't pick a time to go after the ball. It was an interesting play. I don't think it will ever happen again.

"There were a lot of things going on. It was pretty much anything you could expect. I made an error, I made a diving play, the bat hit me, struck out swinging at a ball, home run, sliding at first base."

Traber (3-1) lasted 5 2/3 innings and gave up five runs -- four earned -- on six hits.

"He took us into the sixth inning," Robinson said. "I thought it was good. I didn't want him to stay out there too long and they tie the ballgame or they go ahead. I wanted to give him a chance to leave on a positive note and have a good feeling for himself."

Brain Schneider put the game out of reach when he hit a three-run homer off Ken Ray in the bottom of the seventh inning.

"Anytime you can add runs late in the game, it helps our relievers," Schneider said. "It helps everybody out. You never know when you need some more runs. It just felt good to be able to contribute again."

The Braves scored the last run of the game when LaRoche hit a solo home run into the right-field upper deck off Jon Rauch in the eighth.

The Nationals have now taken two out of three games from the Braves, and they improved their record to 53-67.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.