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WSH@ATL: LaRoche drives a solo dinger to center

ATLANTA -- If the Nationals had to describe their weekend series against the Braves, it would be called "The Lost Weekend." On Sunday afternoon, the Braves scored early and often and pounded the Nationals, 10-2, at Turner Field.

The Braves swept the three-game series and outscored the Nationals, 24-11. Atlanta also proved once again that it is still the team to beat in the National League East. It was a series that was tough to watch when it comes to the Nats, because they didn't get any quality starting pitching, played below average defense and didn't hit in the clutch. Washington even made bad baserunning blunders.

"It's going to happen sometimes, but what we can't do is get out of ourselves," manager Matt Williams said. "We can't allow anything to take us out of our game. It didn't work for us this weekend. We have another one tomorrow against the Marlins. We have to concentrate on that one."

The Braves simply have the Nationals' number. In fact, Atlanta has won 18 of 25 games against Washington in the last two years.

"We just go out there and play," Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. "Maybe when we're out there playing them, we do well for whatever reason. If anything, it might be in their heads. But we just go out there and try to compete. For some reason, we always seem to be victorious against them."

Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond couldn't really explain the reason for the lopsided matchup.

"It [stinks] getting beat, but we can play with them," Desmond said. "We know how we can play. ... Nobody is going to sit in the corner and cry about it, but at the same time you know it's a tough hill to climb."

It was a game where Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez had to take one for the team. He was hit hard, allowing six runs in six innings. He lasted as long as he did because the bullpen has been overworked in the last week. It marked the third consecutive game in which a Nats starter has allowed at least five runs.

Atlanta scored its first six runs in the first two innings off Gonzalez. Jayson Heyward came home on Freddie Freeman's sac fly in the first, and Justin Upton highlighted the scoring with a two-run homer.

The Braves scored three more runs an inning later. Heyward ripped an RBI double before Freeman launched a two-run homer.

"The ball was just up. They put good swings on pitches. It's kind of been [the Braves'] M.O. this whole weekend -- early and often for them," Williams said. "We were able to come back in the first two games, but not today."

Gonzalez wanted to go and pitch at least eight innings, but he left the game after throwing 103 pitches.

"This is one of those tough pills to swallow," Gonzalez said. "You can look at the good and the bad, but at the end of the day you wanted to save as [many] arms as we could. I felt I should have gone deeper."

Left-hander Ross Detwiler had a nightmare eighth inning. With one out, Heyward reached base on an error by Desmond. After he stole second base, Heyward scored on a double by Freeman before Andrelton Simmons crushed a three-run homer. All four runs were unearned.

The Nationals could do almost nothing against right-hander Aaron Harang, who pitched six innings and allowed one run on five hits. The run scored in the fifth inning, when Jose Lobaton grounded out to second baseman Ramiro Pena, scoring Kevin Frandsen.

Adam LaRoche hit a solo homer in the ninth and Bryce Harper reached base four times, hitting a single, a double and drawing two walks.

The Nationals are 7-5 to start the season. All five losses have come against the Braves.

"You have to look past this and go to the next series," Gonzalez said. "We can't do anything about it. We can change things around. Now we head to [Marlins Park] and try to do some damage over there."

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