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updated: 4/11/2013 10:15 PM

Nationals top Sox 7-4, Zimmerman the difference

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  • Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Axelrod (33) walks to the dugout past catcher Tyler Flowers as he is relieved during the fourth inning of an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

      Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Axelrod (33) walks to the dugout past catcher Tyler Flowers as he is relieved during the fourth inning of an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, April 11, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

 
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman delivered a two-run double after Bryce Harper was intentionally walked in the fourth inning, and the Washington Nationals beat the Chicago White Sox 7-4 on a windy Thursday night to cap a three-game sweep.

Dan Haren (1-1) got the win despite allowing 10 hits in five innings.

With the score tied at 3 in the fourth, Haren helped himself by doubling off Dylan Axelrod (0-1) and eventually scoring on a wild pitch with two outs. Chicago then put Harper on base on purpose, but the move didn't work: Cleanup hitter Zimmerman lined a double to right on Axelrod's 103rd -- and final -- pitch of the evening.

That put Washington ahead 6-3, and relievers Ryan Mattheus, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano made it hold up.

After Harper drove in an insurance run in the eighth, Soriano pitched the ninth for his fifth save in six chances, and third this series.

Washington, 6-0 at home and 7-2 overall, opens a three-game set Friday against visiting NL East rival Atlanta. The Braves are on a six-game winning streak and own a major league-best 8-1 record. It's their best start since opening 13-1 in 1994.

On Thursday, swirling air carried napkins and other debris from the stands onto the grass, pushed batted balls away from the fences, and turned some otherwise routine plays into adventures for fielders. Following a couple of days in the 80s, the temperature dipped into the 50s.

And after hitting 11 homers in their previous four games, the Nationals turned to some small ball.

In the first inning, Jayson Werth singled to cap a 10-pitch at-bat, stole second and moved to third when catcher Tyler Flowers' errant throw went into the outfield. Adam LaRoche made it 1-0 with a single on Axelrod's 33rd pitch. He would need 40 just to get the first three outs.

In the third, Denard Span singled, stole second, took third on Werth's flyout and came home on Harper's single up the middle. After consecutive walks, Ian Desmond's sacrifice fly made it 3-1.

Chicago pulled even in the fourth. With a man on, Axelrod popped up a bunt that first baseman LaRoche couldn't quite reach, and the ball bounced by for an infield single. Alejandro De Aza and Jeff Keppinger hit RBI singles -- ending Chicago's 0-for-10 stretch with runners in scoring position over two games.

It didn't stay tied long. Haren got things started by smacking the ball to right-center and ambling into second with a stand-up double. Werth singled, before Axelrod bounced a pitch near Harper's feet. He lifted his back shoe, the left one, just as the ball skipped past. Chicago manager Robin Ventura came out to talk to the plate umpire -- perhaps hoping the ball hit Harper's shoe after touching the dirt -- but the call stood.

Then came the game's fulcrum. The right-handed Axelrod gave the lefty-swinging Harper a free pass, instead dealing with the right-handed Zimmerman, who walked in his first two plate appearances. With the count full, Zimmerman doubled, giving him at least one RBI in each game of the series.

Haren threw 101 pitches and allowed three runs. Shaky, but far more effective than his Nationals debut after signing a $13 million, one-year contract as a free agent. In that game, he allowed four homers in four innings during a 15-0 loss at Cincinnati, the Nationals' biggest defeat since they brought baseball back to Washington in 2005.

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