The Washington Nationals scored three runs early in this afternoon's game with the Atlanta Braves. Jayson Werth drove in two runs with a double to center off Mike Minor. Bryce Harper drove in a run with a groundout and Adam LaRoche came through with a two-out RBI single that made it 3-0 Nats after one. Then the Braves' starter and pen shut Nationals' offense down. Denard Span singled in the second to extend his hit streak to 27 straight games. Jayson Werth walked with two outs in the second, and then 18 batters in a row went down before Harper took a two-out walk in the bottom of the eighth.
As the Nationals continued stepping up and going down, the Braves fought their way back into the game. Their first run scored on Freddie Freeman's sac fly in the sixth. 3-1. Dan Uggla hit a two-out RBI single in the seventh. 3-2. And with Tyler Clippard on the mound in the eighth, Evan Gattis hit a two-run home run to center and into the Red Porch seats in Nationals Park to put the Braves ahead, 4-3. Dagger. Once again it looked like the Braves would come out on top. Harper walked in the bottom of the eighth inning to break the streak of retired batters, but Ian Desmond K'd swinging after starting up 3-0 against Luis Avilan to strand the potential tying run on first.
"We'd only had one hit after the first inning," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "and I had a rested bullpen and they roughed [them] up for three runs. [Clippard] has never -- hardly ever given up anything. And they got him."
In the top of the ninth, Braves' infielder Elliot Johnson singled with one down, and took second when Harper made an ill-advised throw to first base on the play that got away from Adam LaRoche. A stolen base put Johnson on third with two down, and an error by Ian Desmond on a Freddie Freeman grounder gave Atlanta a two-run lead, at 5-3. "We made a couple bad mistakes," Johnson said. "Harper, I don't know what he's thinking but, it's only fitting the way it turned out that we got their 'Superman' closer. So, it was worth it all."
Craig Kimbrel took the mound in Nats Park in the bottom of the ninth and walked Adam LaRoche to start the frame. Wilson Ramos started behind 0-2, but worked his way back before sending a grounder up the middle that was good for an infield single. Anthony Rendon started down 2-0, then after squaring to bunt and taking two "strikes" got to a full count and walked to load the bases with no outs. Pinch hitter Chad Tracy's groundout to first scored LaRoche, 5-4, and advanced both runners and Denard Span's grounder got under Andrelton Simmons' glove behind second allowing both runners to score for the walk-off win, 6-5 Nationals.
"Obviously, [Kimbrel] didn't have his good command," the Nats' skipper said, "[Ramos] had a great at bat, but he was chasing a lot of high fastballs. That was a big hit he got up the middle. And then Rendon is going to bunt and [Kimbrel] is trying to throw the ball up again and got behind and walked him. And actually Tracy, that was a good at bat for Tracy, getting a tough play at first, that could have got by [Freeman] and set it all up. But, I was a little shocked that [Fredi Gonzalez] had the infield back in the ninth there. I don't know if that would have been a clean hit if they were up front, but I liked the fact that if we put the ball in play we're going to be tied."
Just when it seemed like the Nationals would lose their seventh straight to the Braves in Nationals Park, they rallied and beat Craig Kimbrel, scoring three runs (two earned) on the right-hander for the first time in the reliever's career. It was a complete turnaround in a matter of two innings late in the game. "'Night and day," Johnson said. "This morning, I said coming in here that we've got to show these guys we can beat them. I mean, we were 4-12. We don't want them thinking that they can just roll over us. So that was huge, in that respect." But the Nats almost gave it away.
"We gave it to them," the 70-year-old manager admitted. "It seems like every time we've played them it's been just a small difference and they've come out on top. But, I mean, I think they swept us last time they were here. We just have to show them, this is our home. This is our yard. You can't do that to us."
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