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Nationals defeat Braves

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

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: