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Nationals Walk Off On Craig Kimbrel: Nats Beat Braves 6-5 On Denard Span Grounder; E

Just when it looked like all hope was lost, the Washington Nationals loaded the bases with no one out against Atlanta Braves' closer Craig Kimbrel and got three runs to earn the walk-off 6-5 win in the first game of today's doubleheader in Nationals Park.

Patrick Smith

Freddie Freeman stepped to the plate in the top of the first in Washington, D.C. with Justin Upton on second after Upton lined a one-out double to center off Dan Haren and the #NATITUDE wall in center field in Nationals Park. Freeman entered this afternoon's game 52 for 121 (.430 AVG) with nine doubles, a triple and five home runs with runners in scoring position so far this season, so Haren pitched the left-handed hitting Atlanta Braves' first baseman carefully and eventually walked him in front Evan Gattis, who grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3. 14-pitch opening frame. 0-0 after a half.

Denard Span entered the first game of two today with a 26-game hit streak (43 for 111, .387 AVG) on the line, but he wasn't pressing, walking in an eight-pitch at bat against the Braves' Mike Minor to start bottom of the first. Ryan Zimmerman took the second straight walk from Atlanta's left-handed starter, and Jayson Werth drove in the game's first run with a double to center that just missed the Red Porch seats. Span scored from second on Werth's double to make it 1-0 Nationals. Bryce Harper's groundout to second brought Ryan Zimmerman in from third. 2-0. Adam LaRoche's two-out RBI line drive to left brought Jayson Werth in from third too to make it 3-0 Nats after one in Washington.

Brian McCann singled to right on a 2-0 cutter from Dan Haren. Andrelton Simmons took a 2-0 fastball inside that home plate ump Todd Tichenor didn't like and Haren walked the Braves' shortstop on four pitches in front of B.J. Upton. Upton took a swing at the same 2-0 fastball Simmons got and missed, then took a 2-1 heater outside. Haren's belt-high 2-2 cutter outside got Atlanta's 29-year-old outfielder swinging for the 145th time in 434 plate appearances in 2013. Another 2-2 cutter got Mike Minor swinging to strand two Braves at the end of a 23-pitch inning.

In his second at bat this afternoon, Denard Span extended his career-high hit streak to 27 straight games with a broken bat single to center field that left him 44 for 112 over the course of his streak. Span stole second (17 SB) with Jayson Werth at the plate one out later, and took third on a throwing error by Braves' catcher Brian McCann, but both runners were stranded when B.J. Upton dove for a line drive to left-center by Bryce Harper and made a diving catch to rob the Nats' 20-year-old slugger of extra bases and RBIs. 3-0 Nationals after two.

Adam LaRoche scooped up a one-hopper than jumped into his gut and hustled over to first to beat Elliot Johnson to the bag. Anthony Rendon made an awkward one-legged underhand throw to first from behind second that beat Justin Upton to first base. Freddie Freeman K'd swinging at a 90 mph 2-1 fastball knee-high inside. 13-pitch, 1-2-3 third for Dan Haren. 50 pitches total after three. Mike Minor was up to 64 pitches after an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the inning, after which he and the Braves still trailed, 3-0.

Evan Gattis popped up to second. Brian McCann popped to short center where Ian Desmond made the catch when Denard Span lost the ball in the sun. Dan Haren missed with an 0-2 fastball outside to Chris Johnson, but a 1-2 heater got a fly to right for out no.3 of a 13-pitch inning that had Haren up to 63 pitches after four. Haren battled Mike Minor for seven pitches before lining out to right in his one-out at bat, but the Braves' lefty retired the Nationals in order in an 11-pitch inning that had him up to 75 pitches total after four innings pitched.

Nats' shortstop Ian Desmond threw from behind second to beat a headfirst-sliding Andrelton Simmons to first. An 0-2 change inside to B.J. Upton got the Braves' outfielder looking. Mike Minor grounded back to the mound. Haren was up to eleven scoreless innings in-a-row and 11 straight batters retired when he completed his fifth scoreless inning this afternoon after 11 pitches, leaving him at 74 total after five. Minor had 10-straight batters set down after his two-out walk to Jayson Werth in the second after he retired the Nats in order in an 11-pitch fifth inning that had him up to 86. Still 3-0 Nats.

Elliot Johnson hustled out of the box and slid in safe at second on a leadoff double in the top of the sixth. Justin Upton's fly to right moved Johnson to third with one down and he scored on a fly to left by Freddie Freeman that got the Braves on the board. 3-1 Nationals. An 19-pitch inning had Haren up to 93 total after five and a half. Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche both flew out to right for Mike Minor's 11th and 12th straight outs. Wilson Ramos' grounder to third made it 13 straight and no hits since Span's single in the second. 3-1 Nats after six.

Dan Haren's Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 93 P, 58 S, 6/4 GO/FO.

Nationals' right-hander Drew Storen popped Brian McCann up to start the seventh, but back-to-back singles by Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons followed, bringing B.J. Upton up with two on and one out. A 2-2 sinker to Upton got Storen a fly to left and out no.2, but Dan Uggla hit for Minor with two on and two out and drove in a run with a line drive to left that made it a one-run game. 3-2 Nationals. Elliot Johnson's fly to left ended the seventh. Still 3-2 Nats after six and a half. Luis Ayala retired the Nats in order in the bottom of the seventh, setting the 14th, 15th and 16th straight batters down after Minor's two-out walk to Werth in the second. Still 3-2 Nationals.

Tyler Clippard walked Freddie Freeman with one down in the Braves' eighth and then gave up a two-run home run into the Red Porch seats on an 0-2 fastball up high outside to Evan Gattis that sailed out to the left of center field to make it 4-3 Braves. Gattis' home run broke up an 0 for 18 streak for him at the plate. 4-3 Braves after seven and a half in D.C. David Carpenter struck both Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth out for the first two outs of the eighth. Luis Avilan came on to face Bryce Harper, lefty vs lefty, and walked the Nats' 20-year-old slugger. Ian Desmond got up 3-0 on the left-hander and missed a 3-0 fastball outside when he got the green light, then ended up striking out on the third straight fastball Avilan threw him.

Elliot Johnson singled with one down in the top of the ninth, and took second when Bryce Harper made an ill-advised throw behind the runner and right by first trying to catch the Braves' infielder sleeping. Johnson stole third with Justin Upton up, but couldn't score on Upton's grounder to third because Ryan Zimmerman smothered it and held him there. Ian Krol got a grounder to short that should have been out no.3, but Ian Desmond booted it and the Braves took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

Craig Kimbrel walked Adam LaRoche to start the Nats' ninth and an infield single by Wilson Ramos gave the Nationals two runners on with no outs. Jeff Kobernus came on to run at first. Anthony Rendon got up 2-0, squared to bunt twice and took two strikes, 2-2, then went to a full count on a fastball inside and took ball four to load the bases. Chad Tracy fell behind 1-2, and grounded out to first to make it 5-4 Braves. Second and third with one out for Denard Span and his grounder up the middle got by Andrelton Simmons! WHAT!!???? RBI GROUNDER + WALK-OFF E! NATS WIN!!

Nationals now 80-70