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Braves bang out three home runs, overpower Nationals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As Atlanta clings to its slim postseason
chances, starter Lance Cormier gave the Braves just what they
needed.

Cormier allowed two runs and six hits over 6 1/3 innings and the
Braves hit three home runs in a 7-3 victory over the Washington
Nationals on Wednesday night.

"Lance came up with another gem I thought," manager Bobby Cox
said. "His curveball was really working, and that's a great pitch,
because nobody can hit that thing."

Atlanta, which has 10 games remaining, closed within five games
behind Los Angeles and Philadelphia, the NL wild-card leaders. The Braves have been
in the playoffs every year since 1991.

Brian McCann hit a three-run homer in the third and Andruw
Jones, who had an RBI single in the first, hit a solo shot -- his
36th -- in the fifth. Jeff Francoeur added a solo homer, his 26th,
in the sixth.

The Braves have 202 home runs this season, fifth-most in
franchise history.

"Especially considering we don't play in a hitter's park,"
it's impressive, said McCann, who has 21 homers. "We've got a lot
of guys with power."

Cormier (4-5) won for the second time in his last three starts.
He walked four, struck out five and gave up Ryan Zimmerman's 19th
home run in the first inning.

"I'm just trying to continue to believe that I've got the stuff
to be a starter," Cormier said. "Just go out there when you have
the chance to start and give it everything you have."

Ramon Ortiz (10-15) allowed five runs and eight hits, including
the home runs to McCann and Jones, in five innings. In his last
eight starts, he is 1-6 with an 8.08 ERA. He has lost all three
games since his near no-hitter against St. Louis on Sept. 4, and he
is tied with the Cardinals' Jason Marquis for the National League
lead in losses.

"Every time I make a mistake -- home run," Ortiz said. "I
don't want to think about my last three games. I have to keep
pitching well. I want to finish strong. I want to do the best I can
my last three games."

Zimmerman's homer gave him 99 RBI for the season, tops among NL
rookies. He scored in the fourth on Bernie Castro's infield single.

Cormier left with one out in the seventh after Nook Logan
reached on a bunt single and Jose Vidro walked. Reliever Chad
Paronto forced groundouts from Alfonso Soriano and Felipe Lopez to
end the threat.

Edgar Renteria had an RBI double in the ninth for Atlanta.

Brian Schneider of the Nationals doubled in the ninth to extend
his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games. He scored on a
two-out single by Brandon Harper.

Game notes
Braves 3B Chipper Jones left the game after the sixth
inning because of soreness in the second toe on his right foot. Cox
said he could start Thursday at Colorado. ... Braves closer Bob
Wickman agreed to a $6.5 million, one-year contract extension for
2007. ... Nationals RHP Brett Campbell will miss the next 7-10 days
with a back strain. ... Self-help guru Dr. Phil McGraw threw out
the ceremonial first pitch. ... Zimmerman's last homer was Sept. 2
against Arizona. ... Logan has seven bunt hits since being acquired
from Detroit on Sept. 1. ... The Braves' record for home runs in a
season is 235 in 2003.