Even with patchwork pitching, the Washington Nationals are suddenly winning.

Ryan Church hit a go-ahead, three-run double, the Nationals' bullpen provided five shutout innings, and last-place Washington beat the visiting Atlanta Braves, 6-4, last night for its fifth victory in six games.

Church's liner to right-center off Kyle Davies (1-2) capped a four-run fifth in which the Nationals batted around and all of the runs were unearned, thanks to second baseman Kelly Johnson's fielding error.

The big hit also helped Washington overcome a shaky first major league start by Levale Speigner, who had been used primarily as a long reliever in his first season above Double A.

Speigner, facing the club he grew up cheering for in Thomasville, Ga., was moved into the rotation to fill in for Shawn Hill, who's on the disabled list. Speigner lasted four innings, allowing four runs and eight hits.

He was followed by Billy Traber (1-0), who earned the win by pitching his first inning of 2007 for the Nationals. He was called up from Triple A Columbus earlier in the day to take the roster spot of starter Jerome Williams, sent back to the disabled list with shoulder problems a day after coming back from an ankle injury that put him on the DL.

Jon Rauch earned his second save.

In other Braves news, senior vice president Hank Aaron will take on an increased role with the team following a sale from Time Warner Inc. to Liberty Media Corp. The deal, which Braves chairman Terry McGuirk said values the franchise at $450 million, was unanimously approved by baseball owners at a special meeting called last night to beat a midnight change in tax laws. The companies transferred team ownership later in the evening.

In other games:

  • At Pittsburgh, Josh Willingham and Miguel Cabrera had RBI doubles in an eighth-inning rally, and Florida won for the second night in a row after losing four straight, beating the Pirates, 4-3.

  • At Denver, Brad Hawpe homered twice and drove in four runs to lead Aaron Cook (3-1) and Colorado past Arizona, 5-3. Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds went 2-for-3 and doubled home two runs in his major league debut.

  • At New York, Jorge Sosa (3-0) allowed one hit and one run in seven innings and Damian Easley hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, lifting the Mets to a 7-1 win over the Chicago Cubs.

  • At San Diego, Kevin Kouzmanoff drew a bases-loaded walk with no outs in the ninth inning, scoring Khalil Greene and giving the Padres a 3-2 win over Cincinnati.

  • At Houston, rookie Hunter Pence homered for the second straight game and the Astros beat San Francisco, 2-1, for their fourth straight win. *