Braves 3-2 Over Nationals On Justin Upton's Eighth Inning HR: Upton's 20th Crushes Nats

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg put together another strong start at home, but the Atlanta Braves took the first game of three from the Washington Nationals with a solo home run by Justin Upton in the eighth that was the difference in the series opener in Washington, D.C. 3-2 Braves.

Atlanta's (67-45) Braves came to the nation's capital and Nationals Park with a 10-game win streak going and a 12.5 game lead on the (54-57) second-place Washington Nationals in the NL East. The Nats, the defending NL East Champs, were 6.5 games back in the Wild Card as well and desperately in need of reasons for hope as the 2013 campaign slipped away. Stephen Strasburg was on the mound for the Nationals tonight in the nation's capital, and he pitched around an error by Adam LaRoche on the first ball put in play, striking out Justin Upton with a 2-2 curve, Freddie Freeman with an 0-2 change and Brian McCann with a 2-2 hook to finish a 22-pitch top of the first inning.

Ian Desmond took a one-out walk from Braves' lefty Mike Minor in the Nationals' first and went first-to-third™ on a two-out bloop single to right by Wilson Ramos before scoring on an RBI double to right field by Adam LaRoche. Ramos tried to score from first on the play when Jason Heyward struggled to recover the ball, but the Nats' catcher was thrown out at home, leaving it 1-0 Washington after one in D.C. Heyward to Andrelton Simmons and Brian McCann for the out.

Stephen Strasburg retired Chris Johnson on a grounder to first for the fourth straight out after Adam LaRoche's error. Dan Uggla, who was 11 for 24 with two doubles, two home runs, three walks and nine Ks vs Strasburg so far in their respective careers before tonight, was 11 for 25 with 10 Ks after he went down swinging at a 1-2 change for out no.2 of the second and K no.4 for Strasburg tonight in 1 2/3 IP. Home plate ump Rob Drake squeezed Strasburg on back-to-back 1-2 curves to B.J. Upton, then the Nats' starter missed with a full-count fastball and issued his first walk of the game before a grounder to third by Andrelton Simmons and a force at second ended a 19-pitch top of the second. 41 pitches for Strasburg after two.

Anthony Rendon was erased from the basepaths after singling to start the Nats' second when Steve Lombardozzi grounded into a 6-4-3 DP. Scott Hairston doubled with two down, but it only served to clear the pitcher's spot. 1-0 Nats after two.

Ian Desmond barehanded a weak grounder to short by Mike Minor and threw the opposing pitcher out at first in the first at bat of the third, but he couldn't handle a weak roller toward the hole off Jason Heyward's bat, so he put it in his pocket. Justin Upton connected for the second straight infield hit on a sharp grounder to third that Ryan Zimmerman handled before sailing a "hope-for-magic" throw to first. Freddie Freeman went down for a first-pitch change, and hit the third straight single to right to bring in the tying run, making it 1-1 after two and a half.

Mike Minor walked Bryce Harper on four pitches in the first at bat of the Nationals' third. Dan Uggla made a diving catch to rob Ian Desmond on a low liner with eyes for right. Minor fooled Ryan Zimmerman with a 2-2 curve for a swinging K and out no.2 and Wilson Ramos lined out to right to end the bottom of the inning. Still 1-1 in D.C.

Dan Uggla's bat broke when he hit a 96 mph 1-2 fastball off the top of the barrel and grounded back to the mound to start the fourth. B.J. Upton took a 2-2 curve for a called strike three and K no.5 for Stephen Strasburg in 3 2/3 IP. A high 2-2 change got Andrelton Simmons swinging and the Nationals right-hander had 6 Ks in four innings. 15-pitch frame, 75 total after four. Adam LaRoche was 2 for 2 tonight after he lined a 2-2 fastball to right for a leadoff single in the Nats' half of the frame. Anthony Rendon grounded into a force at second, but hustled to first to avoid the double play, only to get doubled up himself when Steve Lombardozzi sent a weak grounder to second to start an inning-ending 4-6-3. 1-1 after four.

Mike Minor had his bat shattered by a 94 mph 1-1 heater from Strasburg. Jason Heyward popped out to Ryan Zimmerman on a 96 mph 1-2 fastball. Justin Upton disrupted the flow with a two-out single to center on a 1-0 four-seamer then stole second on Strasburg with Freddie Freeman at the plate, before scoring on a low liner back up the middle that made it 2-1 Braves. Another 19-pitch inning had Strasburg up to 94 pitches overall after five innings pitched. Scott Hairston walked to start the Nats' fifth. Strasburg managed to get down a sac bunt to move Hairston to second/give up an out. Bryce Harper flew to deep left for out no.2 and Ian Desmond took a 2-2 slider for a called strike three. 2-1 Braves after five.

Chris Johnson was strikeout victim no. 8 in 5 1/3 after he chased an 0-2 curve from Stephen Strasburg into the dirt. Dan Uggla was 0 for 3 tonight after grounding out to short. B.J. Upton took a 2-2 bender for a called strike three and Strasburg's most-efficient inning of the evening. Nine-pitch 6th, still 2-1 Braves. 103 pitches total for the Nats' right-hander.

Ryan Zimmerman sent a 1-0 slider through short for a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning. Wilson Ramos took a 1-0 fastball to right for a long single off the out-of-town scoreboard as Zimmerman went first-to-third™ on the Nationals' catcher's second hit in three at bats. Adam LaRoche chased a filthy 2-2 curve into the dirt for an unproductive first out of the frame, but Anthony Rendon lined to left and deep enough to tie it. 2-2 game after six in the nation's capital.

Stephen Strasburg got three quick outs on three ground balls from the Braves for a nine-pitch inning that pushed him up to 112 overall after seven. Scott Hairston was 2 for 2 tonight after doubling to start the Nats' half of the seventh and knocking Minor out of the game. Braves' right-hander David Carpenter took over against pinch hitter Jayson Werth. Werth K'd on a foul tip strike three on a full-count fastball. Bryce Harper lined sharply to right for out no.2 and Ian Desmond's swinging bunt stranded the leadoff runner at second. 2-2 after seven.

Tyler Clippard took the mound in the top of the eighth. Justin Upton and Clippard battled for eight pitches in the first at bat, but Upton came out on top, taking a 3-2 change to left for a line drive solo home run that made it 3-2 Braves. Clippard gave up a single by Freddie Freeman, but got a double play and a line drive out to end the eighth, but only after Atlanta took the lead. David Carpenter recorded the first two outs of the Nats' eighth, then handed the ball to Luis Avilan who got a line drive to short from Adam LaRoche for the third out of the inning.

Ryan Mattheus came on in the ninth and walked the first batter he faced, Dan Uggla. B.J. Upton settled for a single on a grounder that Ryan Zimmerman couldn't field, but Ian Desmond backed him up and ran Uggla down when the Braves' infielder tried to take third. Andrelton Simmons grounded into a force at second for out no.2 and Joey Terdaslovich grounded out to end the top of the ninth. Jordan Walden came on for the bottom of the inning. Anthony Rendon singled to center on a 2-1 fastball to start the frame. Denard Span bunted Rendon over to second and a wild pitch/passed ball moved Rendon over to third, but Scott Hairston popped up behind home and Chad Tracy flew to left to end the game. 3-2 Braves.

Nationals now 54-58

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