Espinosa, LaRoche and Harper pace Nats over Braves

Espinosa, LaRoche and Harper pace Nats over Braves

VIERA, Fla. -- Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche drove in a combined six runs, while Bryce Harper had three hits in his return to the lineup, as the Nationals pounded the Braves, 9-3, in a rain-shortened, seven-inning game at Space Coast Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Washington was able to get to right-hander Kris Medlen early and often, starting in the first inning. Denard Span scored the first run of the game on a throwing error by catcher Matt Pagnozzi, who was trying to throw out Harper trying to steal second base. Harper then scored on a single by LaRoche.

Harper went 3-for-3 with a pair of singles, a double and two stolen bases, after sitting out Saturday with a jammed thumb.

In the next inning, Danny Espinosa scored the third run of the game on a single by Jayson Werth with two outs. In the third, Espinosa hit a three-run homer to make it a 6-0 game.

Medlen lasted five innings and allowed six runs on eight hits. It was the second rough outing in a row for Medlen, who struggled on Monday against the Phillies. The Braves' bullpen allowed three runs the rest of the way. LaRoche capped off the scoring with a two-run homer off right-hander David Carpenter.

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was solid for the Nationals, allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits over six innings, while striking out three batters.

Dan Uggla delivered an RBI single in the fourth to get Atlanta on the board. Tyler Pastornicky had an RBI groundout and Juan Francisco added an RBI single in the Braves' two-run sixth inning.

With the win, the Nationals are 2-3 against the Braves this spring.

Up next: The Nationals travel to Kissimmee, Fla., to play to play the Astros on Monday at 6:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Chris Young will make what could be his final start with the Nationals. He has an opt-out clause in his contract that goes into effect on Sunday. After the game against Houston, it's his choice whether or not to stay with Washington.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.