ATLANTA -- The Nationals had another big test on Friday. They faced another National League East rival, the second-place Braves, and they passed the test by beating Atlanta's best pitcher, Tim Hudson, in a 7-4 victory at Turner Field.
The Nationals were able to get off to a great start against Hudson in the first inning, scoring four runs. Ian Desmond had a two-run single, while Rick Ankiel gave Washington a 4-0 lead by hitting a two-run triple.
Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler couldn't take advantage of the situation, allowing three runs in 4 1/3 innings. By the time he left the game, Detwiler threw 100 pitches, much to manager Davey Johnson's chagrin.
"I was a little disappointed in Det," Johnson said. "He really didn't take charge and go right after the hitters. He messed around. I like to go give [the pitcher] every opportunity to get five innings, but I was getting frustrated with the fact that he wouldn't go right after them. He had good stuff today. It was a tough hook for me."
It was Detwiler's third consecutive bad start, and Johnson was asked if he would consider making a change when it comes to the fifth spot in the rotation. Johnson would not let his emotions get the best of him.
"Yes and no," Johnson said about making a change. "I don't make any decisions right after a ballgame. The emotions are running pretty high.
"Det has been outstanding all year long. The last two or three outings haven't been vintage Det. He has a great arm, great stuff, but that [hook] was especially difficult for me. I'll go to the nth degree, but I thought that was about it."
Detwiler's laboring meant Johnson had to go to the bullpen early, and his first call was for right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who made his first relief appearance since 2009, when he was with the Yankees.
Making his season debut, Wang's first pitch resulted in a two-run double to Matt Diaz to make it a 4-3 game, with the runs being charged to Detwiler.
Wang settled in, however, and retired seven of the next eight hitters he faced before allowing a solo homer to Jason Heyward in the eighth inning.
"I had Chien-Ming Wang for a couple of innings," Johnson said. "I figure if I'm going to use him, I better use him now, and he threw the ball very well. It's not easy coming out of the 'pen, but he threw the ball exceptionally well. He had great sink. I liked what I saw."
With Wang back in the fold and looking to get back in the rotation, Detwiler said he didn't feel any pressure to pitch a great game on Friday.
"There [isn't any] pressure on me," Detwiler said. "I have to go out there and do my job. There isn't any extra pressure or anything."
Wang reiterated that he will do anything to help the team.
"So far, the only thing I know is, I'm still staying in the bullpen and I'll just try to do my job, follow the direction that they give to me. That's all I know," Wang said.
After giving up the four runs, Hudson settled down for the next five innings before allowing three insurance runs in the seventh inning.
After Wang drew a two-out walk in the seventh, Steve Lombardozzi doubled and Hudson decided to pitch around Bryce Harper, who walked before Ryan Zimmerman put the game out of reach, hitting Hudson's 0-2 pitch for a three-run double to left-center field.
"We were definitely in striking distance, down by one," Hudson said. "We fought back, I was able to settle in, show the guys just try to plug away and get one at a time, and we were doing that.
"I just didn't hold up my end of the bargain on that pitch. And then [Jason] Heyward goes deep and puts the fourth run on the board and made it hurt even worse. We should have won the ballgame. We get four runs, that lead should hold up. Four runs, we should win."
Prior to the game, Zimmerman was 8-for-46 (.174) against Hudson. It was a different story Friday, as the Nats' third baseman went 2-for-4 against the veteran right-hander.
"I thought we did a good job going after [Hudson] in the first inning," said Zimmerman. "After that, he settled in. We continued to grind it out and got some runs and some big hits late."
With the victory, the Nationals are 27-18, in first place and two games ahead of the Braves in the division.
The Nationals will have Stephen Strasburg pitch on Saturday, while Gio Gonzalez will take the mound the next day.
"Obviously, you want to win the first game of any series, especially with Hudson pitching. I think it was huge for us to take the lead. I'm just glad we got the win," Desmond said. "These next two games are not going to be easy. It's nice to get that first win out of the way."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.