The Nationals have now won five consecutive games and improved their record to 39-33.
The bases were loaded with one out when Desmond swung at the first pitch from right-hander David Aardsma and hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Bryce Harper to end the game.
The game ended up being a pitchers' duel. Braves right-hander Shelby Miller allowed three hits in seven innings. The Nationals collected one hit in the first six innings and didn't have runners in scoring position against the right-hander until the seventh inning, when they scored their first run on Harper's bloop single to shallow right field.
"At the end of the day in this game, you've got to look at the positives," Miller said. "We played a great game and we played hard. It just didn't come out our way."
Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was just as good, pitching eight shutout innings and allowing six hits. It also meant that Nationals starters haven't allowed a run in 34 1/3 innings, a franchise record. The last team with a scoreless-innings streak of at least 32 innings from their starting pitchers was the Cardinals in 2013, with 34 innings.
"You see the guy before you go out there and put up zeros and you don't want to be the guy with the big bomb. I'm trying to do my job tonight and put up zeros," Zimmermann said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Desmond comes through: Desmond drove in his 19th run of the season by hitting a sacrifice fly, scoring Harper, who started the rally with a double. Prior to the at-bat, Desmond was 10-for-72 (.139) with a home run and and three RBIs during the month of June. More >
"It felt good to win," Desmond said. "I contributed. Whether I get hits or whatever, I feel like I bring something to the team every day. The box score might not say that, but I know what I bring to the team. It felt good to drive a run in there. We still have a lot of time to play. Whether I get hits or not, there are other ways to contribute."
Costly leadoff walk: Miller had recorded strikes with 51 of the 69 pitches he totaled while facing the minimum and surrendering just one hit through the first six innings. But he began the seventh inning by issuing a four-pitch walk to Denard Span, who advanced to second base when Anthony Rendon followed with his second single of the night. After Yunel Escobar narrowly beat out a potential double play that would have left first base open, the Braves pitched to Harper and the Nats' slugger made them pay with a blooper that eluded a diving Jace Peterson.
Zimmermann has quality start: Zimmermann had arguably his best start of the season, going eight shutout innings and allowing six hits. The outing broke a personal three-game losing streak. More >
"Early on, I wasn't quite right," Zimmermann said. "But after a couple of innings, I felt a lot better. I think the curveball was the best it has been all year. That was the big pitch for me all night. Fastball location was there. It was a good night. I pounded the zone."
Ninth-inning baserunning:A.J. Pierzynski alertly raced to second when Harper made a bad decision to prevent Nick Markakis from advancing to third base on Pierzynski's single with no outs in the ninth. After Drew Storen intentionally walked Joey Terdoslavich to load the bases, Kelly Johnson delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly. But Terdoslavich silenced the threat when he made the highly questionable and costly decision to attempt to tag and advance to second base on the play. More >
"There are a lot of guys on that [Nationals] pitching staff and sometimes there's not enough credit given to him. He really is tough." -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, on Zimmermann
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Miller has produced a 2.31 ERA in the 10 starts that he has made that have not resulted in him being credited with a win. He has posted a 2.70 ERA in the seven starts he has made since earning his most recent win on May 17. More >
Harper suffered a cramp in his right leg in the 11th inning against the Braves. The injury is not considered serious. He was able to score the winning run and get treatment after the game. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Braves:Matt Wisler will take the mound when the Braves and Nationals conclude their three-game series on Thursday at 4:05 p.m. ET This will be the second career appearance for Wisler, who tossed eight scoreless innings while making his Major League debut against the Mets on Friday.
Nationals: Right-hander Doug Fister makes his second start since coming off the disabled list last week in the finale vs. Atlanta. Fister looks like he has recovered from a flexor strain. It's just a matter of keeping the ball down in the strike zone.