With last night's extra innings win over Washington, the Atlanta Braves improved to 16-7 against the Nationals in 2013-14. Braves' left fielder Justin Upton, who ended up winning the game with a walk-off single, hit a game-tying home run in the eighth as well, a half-inning after Denard Span gave the Nats a 6-5 lead in a game that started with the visiting Nationals in a 4-0 hole on the road in Turner Field.
Upton's home run off Tyler Clippard, which traveled approximately 420 feet to center field, was the Braves' second off the Nationals' set-up man this season. Clippard has now surrendered 11 hits, nine runs, all earned, four home runs and seven walks in 8 1/3 IP against Atlanta in '13-14.
Washington's first-year manager, Matt Williams, made clear last night, however, that he wasn't going to move away from the right-hander in spite of his struggles at the start this season and against the Braves over the last year-plus.
"He's our guy," Williams told reporters. "We're going to put him in there. Every pitcher goes through stretches during the course of a season. I'm confident. He's confident. And he's the guy that we'll go to."
The Nationals battled back from a four-run deficit, tied it up at 5-5 when they again fell behind and took the lead in the eighth before Upton's blast. Though they lost to the Braves again, Williams said there were positives to be taken from the effort.
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"The guys just continue to fight back," he said. "That's a really good sign. Didn't come out our way tonight, but they got back in it, we took the lead, and we'll take our chances with that every day."
Williams got his first taste of the increasingly entertaining rivalry between the NL East's last two division winners last week in D.C.
Though the Braves seem to have the Nationals' number right now, Williams stressed the competitive nature of the games they've played which included two one-run games during last week's series.
"It's important to win games and both teams want to win," he said after last night's loss. "And that's good. It makes for good baseball. It makes for exciting games. And again, one swing of the bat either way can make the difference and tonight it was their turn, so we'll come back tomorrow."
After all of the lead changes, hard-hit balls, odd plays, challenged calls and excitement, it was a bloop single that ended up winning it for the Braves.
Justin Upton, with pinch runner Jordan Schafer running after Nats' reliever Jerry Blevins checked him repeatedly at first, hit a soft fly ball to shallow right field. Bryce Harper, deep in right after Jayson Werth was lifted with a tight groin, had no chance of making a catch, and Schafer scored easily when Harper failed to come up with the bouncing ball as he charged it.
"They put [Schafer] in the game to try to steal second base right there," Williams said when asked if all the throws over to first Blevins made allowed Schafer to get a good jump. "Otherwise they wouldn't want to lose [Chris] Johnson. So, I mean, we just want to try to prevent that as much as possible, and it ended up the ball [Upton] hit [Schafer] was going anyway, so that's the way it goes sometimes."
It has gone the Braves way more often than not in the last two seasons.
The one-run win for Atlanta was their third this year and their eighth over Washington in 2013-14.
The Nationals had their chances last night, but they lost to the Braves again.