WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon continued his hot hitting on Sunday with a home run and four RBIs to back seven strong innings from Tanner Roark in the Nationals' 9-1 win over the Braves at Nationals Park.
With the victory, the Nationals still have a comfortable 8 1/2-game lead over the Marlins in the National League East. The Marlins edged the White Sox, 5-4, on Sunday.
To show how hot Rendon has been, since July 16, he is 27-for-84 (.318) with six homers and 21 RBIs. Rendon had a hand in Washington's three-run first against right-hander Tyrell Jenkins. Rendon drove in one with a sacrifice fly, and added a three-run shot in a four-run fifth.
"Just finding holes. Balls are falling in. I feel like I've been squaring ball the entire year," Rendon said.
Said Nationals manager Dusty Baker, "Anthony has been a good hitter all his life. So his timing is there. His hands are unbelieveable. He has some of the quickest hands, offensive and defensively. That's what impressed me during Spring Training. He is the guy I told my son to watch. I told my son, 'That's your friend. Your hands. You watch Anthony Rendon, he uses his hands.'"
After the home run, Jenkins was done for the day. He lasted last 4 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs on six hits. His most glaring mistake was walking Roark to begin the fifth.
Roark left the mound to a standing ovation in earning his 13th win. Once he left, Oliver Perez and Matt Belisle blanked the Braves, who split a 10-game road trip, despite losing four of the final five games. Roark allowed one run, going at least seven innings for the 15th time in 24 starts this season.
Bryce Harper returned after missing five games with a stiff neck and had an RBI double in his first at-bat.
"You can't go out and give free passes to these guys," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. "It's a really good offensive club. You've got to make them earn everything they get. You can't put extra guys on base or it will bite you and it did. You just have to stay on the attack and go after hitters. When you start putting them on, you're just asking for trouble."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Harper returns: Harper played his first game since Aug. 6 against the Giants and went 1-for-3 with an RBI, a walk and two runs scored. In his first at-bat, his RBI double into the left-field corner highlighted a three-run first inning.
"I felt good to get out there and help the team win. That's your biggest thing," Harper said. "I had a couple of good ABs and had some success and I felt pretty good." More >
Walks haunt rookie: Jenkins surrendered a pair of extra-base hits and two runs before throwing his eighth pitch in a 25-pitch first inning in which he allowed three runs. He had retired nine straight before walking Roark to open the fifth. Harper drew another walk to load the base before Rendon followed Wilson Ramos' sacrifice fly with a three-run homer. Jenkins had allowed just two earned runs while issuing 11 walks in 18 innings over his last three starts.
"I thought I pitched better in the first than what the score might have shown," Jenkins said. "The long first inning led to some troubles down the road…Once [I walked Roark], it kind of went downhill from there. That can't happen. It's something I've got to work on."
He's a workhorse: Roark allowed five hits in his 15th start of at least seven innings -- this time in 96-degree heat. The Braves had runners in scoring position three times against Roark, but they scored their only run in the third when Ender Inciarte scored on a single by Erick Aybar.
"It was a very hot afternoon," Baker said. "He fielded his position, which really helped out a lot. That was some performance in the heat out out there. He never complains about the heat. He doesn't complain about anything. He goes out and pitches and the team responded behind him."
Roark acknowledged it was out at Nationals Park, but as he put it, he has no control over mother nature.
"You still have to pitch. You still have to go out there and do your job. You have to block it out," Roark said. "I was getting ahead of guys. I was pitching aggressive. The two seamer was working well and the curveball started kicking in."
Squandered opportunities: The Braves grounded into a double play twice within the first four innings and did not score a first-inning run after putting runners at the corners with one out. Inciarte sparked that early threat with a leadoff single and also quieted it when he made the mistake of attempting to score on Matt Kemp's soft grounder to Roark.
"It was just one of those days," Snitker said. "You can't get behind and come back every day. In the first inning in a game like this, you kind of like to go out there and stay competitive in this game and make their guy work a little harder. It's tough, especially against [Roark]. He's been good against us."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Inciarte has now reached base safely in a career-best 25 consecutive games. He has recorded at least one hit in 24 of these games and is hitting .354 (35-for-99) over that span.
The Braves have now lost 16 of the 17 games played at Nationals Park since the start of the 2015 season.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After Inciarte doubled in the third, Roark tried to pick him off, but second-base umpire Jordan Baker called him safe. Baker challenged the call and the call stood after a one-minute, 40-second review.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves: Atlanta will return home to begin a two-games series against Minnesota on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Joel De La Cruz will start for the Braves, who swept a two-game series from the Twins at Target Field in late July.
Nationals: The Nationals travel to Colorado to play a three-game series starting Monday night. Max Scherzer will pitch the first game at 8:40 p.m. ET. In his last start, Scherzer was dominating for most of the game against the Indians at Nationals Park. The Nats right-hander had a no-hitter going for 6 1/3 innings against the Indians and struck out nine batters before Francisco Lindor broke it up with a single in a 3-1 Cleveland victory.