WASHINGTON (AP) – Rookie Beltran Perez allowed one hit over six innings to win his first major league start, and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 9-2 on Tuesday night.

Nick Johnson homered on his 28th birthday, and Jose Vidro also connected off Chuck James (10-4), who lost for the first time in nine starts since Aug. 4. Alfonso Soriano added a two-run double – he has 39 doubles to go along with 40 stolen bases and 45 homers.

Atlanta’s magic number for playoff elimination was lowered to seven. The Braves have been to the playoffs each year since 1991.

Perez (1-0), a right-hander who had made five relief appearances since being called up from Double-A Harrisburg on Sept. 2, allowed a two-out, first-inning single to Chipper Jones, then retired his final 16 batters. He struck out three and walked none.

James (10-4) allowed five runs, five hits and six walks in 4 1-3 innings with seven strikeouts. It was his shortest outing since he allowed seven runs in one inning against the New York Mets on July 30.

Johnson hit his 23rd homer leading off the second, and Washington made it 3-0 in the third on Austin Kearns’ RBI double and Brandon Harper’s sacrifice fly. Vidro’s two-run homer in the fifth chased James, and Ryan Zimmerman made it 6-0 with an RBI double off Kevin Barry in the sixth.

Brian McCann singled in the Braves’ first run in the seventh off Saul Rivera. Nook Logan had an RBI single off Barry in the seventh, and Soriano doubled off Ken Ray for a 9-1 lead.

Notes: Johnson is the first player to homer for the Expos/Nationals since the team moved to Washington in 2005. … Nationals OF George Lombard stole second and third in the sixth, his first stolen bases since April 27, 2003, for Tampa Bay.

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