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Nationals 13-12 over Braves: Dan Uggla's three-run blast in ninth caps comeback

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A.J. Cole's debut didn't last long, but the Washington Nationals battled back from an early deficit, and took a 13-12 lead when Dan Uggla hit a three-run home run to left off Atlanta Braves' closer Jason Grilli in the ninth. You. Gotta. Believe.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

5. No.69: After reacquiring A.J. Cole, a year after he was dealt to the Oakland A's, Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters, in January of 2013, that parting with the Nats' 2010 4th Round pick was not easy when he made the deal with the Athletics for Gio Gonzalez the previous winter.

"He was the toughest part, for me, of the package for Gio," Rizzo said of the winter 2012 trade that sent Cole, left-hander Tom Milone, right-hander Brad Peacock and catcher Derek Norris to the A's in return for Gonzalez and right-hander Robert Gilliam.

After a rough-ish year in the A's organization, Cole came back to the Nationals in the three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners, catcher John Jaso to Oakland and Cole, righty Blake Treinen and lefty Ian Krol to Washington.

"We were fortunate to involve Oakland," Rizzo said, noting that the Athletics were the third team into the deal. "They needed a player from Seattle that Seattle was willing to give up for them, and we demanded that the deal had to have A.J. Cole in it or there wasn't going to be a deal."

"For me, he's got the ultimate pitcher's body. It's long and then he gets out front and the ball explodes out of his hand." - Matt Williams on A.J. Cole, Spring 2014

Rizzo said then that he wasn't concerned about the issues Cole experienced pitching in the A's system.

Cole was (0-7) in eight starts and 38.0 IP with the High-A California League's Stockton Ports, posting a 7.82 ERA, a 4.99 FIP, 10 walks (2.37 BB/9) and 31 Ks (7.34 K/9).

Sent down to Low-A Midwest League's Burlington Bees, Cole went (6-3) with a 2.07 ERA and a 2.90 FIP in 19 starts and 95 ⅔ IP over which he walked 19 (1.79 BB/9) and K'd 102 (9.60 K/9).

"His stuff was fine," Rizzo said. "His delivery wandered a little bit throughout the season. He righted the ship when they sent him to the Midwest League and dominated that league as a 20-year-old, so we feel that he's on course."

"His developmental curve is on track," Rizzo continued, "and we're going to get him with our pitching people and kind of straighten out his delivery and I think that this guy will be a quick mover for us from this point forward."

Back in the Nationals' system in 2013, Cole was (6-3) with a 4.25 ERA, a 3.54 FIP, 23 walks (2.13 BB/9) and 102 Ks (9.43 K/9) in 18 starts and 97 ⅓ IP at High-A Potomac before moving up to Double-A for seven starts and going (4-2) with a 2.18 ERA, a 2.56 FIP, 10 walks (1.99 BB/9) and 49 Ks (9.73 K/9) in 45 ⅓ IP with Harrisburg.

In 2014, the right-hander Cole made 14 starts at Double-A, going (6-3) with a 2.92 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 15 walks (1.90 BB/9) and 61 Ks (7.73 K/9) in 71 IP.

His fifth minor league season ended with 11 starts at Triple-A in which he was (7-0) with a 3.43 ERA, a 4.48 FIP, 17 walks (2.43 BB/9) and 50 Ks (7.14 K/9) in 63 IP.

Two-plus season after he was reacquired and five years after he was drafted, the Nationals called Cole up to the majors this afternoon to make a spot start in place of Max Scherzer tonight in Atlanta, Georgia's Turner Field.

Cole took the mound with a 1-0 lead, and his MLB career started with a single to center by Braves' leadoff man Nick Markakis, who took a 2-1 fastball back up the middle. Andrelton Simmons popped up to Ryan Zimmerman in foul territory to the right of home plate for the first out of the frame, but Freddie Freeman sent Markakis around to third on a second single to center. A.J. Pierzynski stepped in with runners on the corners and one out and hit a sac fly to right to tie things up at 1-1. A wild pitch to Alberto Callaspo moved Freeman into scoring position at second, and he scored on an RBI double to right, 2-1. Kelly Johnson K'd swinging over a 2-2 curve to end a 17-pitch frame with Cole's first major league K.

Jace Peterson took a 91 mph 3-2 fastball to center for a leadoff single in the second. Cameron Maybin hit a broken-bat single to right in the next at bat and Julio Teheran bunted them over/gave up an out. Cole put Nick Markakis on to face Andrelton Simmons with the bases loaded. Simmons sent a 1-1 fastball up in the zone through short for a two-out single that made it 4-1 Braves. Freddie Freeman stepped in next and lined out to right for out no.2. A.J. Pierzynski lined a two-out single to left to load the bases back up for Alberto Callaspo, who hit a chopper to first that Ryan Zimmerman handled. His toss to Cole at first, however, went behind and right by the pitcher. 6-1 Braves on the two-run error.

Make that 8-1 after a two-run double by Kelly Johnson. 9-1 on an RBI single Jace Peterson. 38-pitch frame for Cole, 55 total after two.

A.J. Cole's Line: 2.0 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 55 P, 30 S, 3/1 GO/FO.

4. Teheran's turn: A.J. Cole, 23, made his MLB debut tonight in Atlanta. Julio Teheran, 24, made the fifth start of his fifth major league campaign and his 72nd career start.

Over four-plus seasons in the majors, the Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia-born starter who signed as an international free agent in 2007, was (3-2) in eight starts against the Nationals, posting a 3.06 ERA with 17 walks (3.06 BB/9) and 46 Ks (8.28 K/9) in 50 IP over which he held Washington's hitters to a combined .274/.340/.395 line.

Teheran took the mound tonight in Turner Field with a 4.64 ERA, a 5.80 FIP, 12 walks (5.06 BB/9) and 18 Ks (7.59 K/9) in 21 ⅓ IP so far this season, over which opposing hitters had a .260/.374/.468 line against him.

Teheran gave up a leadoff single by Denard Span in the first at bat of the game, and two outs later, Span scored on an RBI double to right by Bryce Harper. 1-0 after one. 17-pitch frame.

Jose Lobaton and Danny Epsinosa hit back-to-back singles in the top of the second. One out later, Cole, in his first MLB at bat, grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3. 14-pitch frame, 31 total.

Given a 9-1 lead to work with, Teheran gave up a leadoff double by Denard Span in the top of the third. Ian Desmond hit a groundout to first to move Span up to third and a sac fly to center Jayson Werth brought him in, 9-2. Bryce Harper K'd swinging to end a 12-pitch frame. 43 overall for Teheran.

Teheran hit Danny Espinosa in the knee with two out in the Nats' fourth, and Dan Uggla singled to put runners on the corners, but Tanner Roark K'd swinging to end a 16-pitch frame. 59 total.

Denard Span was 3 for 3 vs Teheran after singling to right to start the Nationals' fifth. Ian Desmond sent a single by Alberto Callaspo at third, moving Span over to third and a sac fly by Jayson Werth brought Span in, 10-3.

Ryan Zimmerman singled with two down to put two on in front of Jose Lobaton and the Nats' catcher took Teheran deep for a three-run blast to left that made it 10-6 Atlanta. Teheran was up to 76 pitches after a 17-pitch fifth.

Denard Span stepped in with two out in the top of the sixth, and sent an 0-2 fastball out to right field for a solo home run that made it a three-run game, 10-7. That was it for Teheran...

Julio Teheran's Line: 5.2 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 83 P, 58 S, 5/3 GO/FO.

3. Yunel and Andrelton: Though some of Yunel Escobar's teammates shared their thoughts on the spikes-first slide into third base by Andrelton Simmons last night that cut the Nats' third baseman's hand up and knocked him out of the series-opener in Atlanta, Nats' skipper Matt Williams declined to comment when asked about the play after the Nationals' 8-4 loss to the Braves.

"Did you think it was a clean slide?" a reporter asked.

"I'm not going to comment on that," Williams said.

Right-hander Rafael Martin responded on the field in the game, hitting Simmons in the front hip the next time the Braves' shortstop stepped to the plate.

Fredi Gonzalez shared his thoughts on the slide, telling MLB.com he was suprised by the Nats' reaction:

"'Sometimes you slide a little crazy. There was nothing malicious about it. I'm surprised, really, at how they reacted, but maybe I shouldn't be surprised.'"

Before tonight's game, Williams shared some of his thoughts on the slide:

Even if it was all "settled" on the field last night, it's safe to say the rivalry between the NL East franchises was renewed in the series opener.

Or was it settled? A HBP on Danny Espinosa in the fourth definitely raised doubts...

2. Turning Point(s): Hmmm? What to pick? A.J. Cole gave up two runs in the first inning of his MLB debut, then he gave up back-to-back singles to start the second. Braves' starter Julio Teheran bunted both runners over/gave up an out, so Nats' skipper Matt Williams had his 23-year-old starter walk Nick Markakis to load the bases in front of right-handed hitting Braves' shortstop Andrelton Simmons...

ESPN.com's Keith Law shared his thoughts on the Nats' skipper's decision-making there:

Simmons singled to left on a fastball up in the zone to drive in two runs and make it 4-1 Atlanta.

One out later, A.J. Pierzysnki singled to load them back up and an error by Cole on a play at first in the next at bat let two more runs score, 6-1.

The Braves added two more on a Kelly Johnson double and scored the seventh run of the frame on a Jace Peterson single. That was pretty much the game. 9-1 Atlanta...

Just when you thought the Nationals were out of it, however, Jose Lobaton hit a two-out, three-run home run to left to make it a 10-6 Braves' lead after four and a half. First home run of the year for the Nats' backup backstop.

Do. You. Believe? Denard Span hit a hanging 0-1 curve out to right for a solo blast in the sixth that got the Nationals within three, 10-7. Dan Uggla tripled to score two in the seventh, 11-9. Reed Johnson drove Uggla in, 11-10.

Freddie Freeman's fourth hit in five at bats set A.J. Pierzynski up with runners on the corners with one out in the home-half of the seventh and the Braves' catcher drove one in with a single to right that made it 12-10 Atlanta.

With the Braves up by two, two runners reached in front of former Atlanta infielder Dan Uggla, who yanked an 0-2 fastball out to left field for a go-ahead three-run blast. 13-12 Nats.

1. The Wrap-Up: Tanner Roark took over for A.J. Cole in the third and retired the Braves in order in a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. Freddie Freeman doubled to right-center to start the home-half of the fourth and scored on an RBI single to center by A.J. Pierzynski, 10-2.

With the score 10-6 after a four-run fifth for the Nationals, Tanner Roark came back out and gave up a leadoff single to right by Cameron Maybin. Julio Teheran bunted Maybin over/gave up an out, and he was stranded at second two outs later as Roark completed a 13-pitch frame at 42 total over three innings. Still 10-6 Atlanta.

Michael Kohn took over on the mound for the Braves with a three-run lead in the sixth after Denard Span's two-out solo home run and walked the first batter he faced, Ian Desmond. Jayson Werth stepped in with one on and two out and K'd looking to end the frame.

Freddie Freeman started the Braves' sixth with his third hit in four at bats, singling to right, and scored on an RBI double to center by A.J. Pierzynski. 11-6 Atlanta. Roark was done after a walk to Alberto Callaspo.

Matt Thornton replaced Roark on the hill and recorded the first two outs of the frame before a two-out, base-loaded walk to Cameron Maybin. Pinch hitter Chris Johnson stepped in and went down swinging to leave'em loaded.

Luis Avilan came on in the top of the seventh and issued a leadoff walk to Bryce Harper and a one-out walk to Jose Lobaton... and Dan Uggla drove them both in with a two-out, two-run triple to right-center, 11-9.

Reed Johnson then doubled to right to drive Uggla in, 11-10. Denard Span (4 for 4) came up looking for his fifth hit of the night... and flew out to center. One-run game in the seventh.

Blake Treinen issued a one-out walk to Andrelton Simmons in the Braves' seventh and the shortstop took third on a single to right by Freddie Freeman (4 for 5). A.J. Pierzynski got another RBI opportunity and went down for a low curve and shot it through right. RBI single, 12-10 Braves after seven.

Jim Johnson retired the Nationals in order in a quick, 10-pitch eighth.

Treinen walked two in the home-half of the eighth, putting runners on the corners for Andrelton Simmons with two down, but a lineout to short kept it close.

Jason Grilli came on for the save and gave up a one-out single by Jose Lobaton... then walked Danny Espinosa. Two on for Dan Uggla... who hit a three-run home run to left field on an 0-2 fastball!! 13-12 Nationals.

Drew Storen came on in the bottom of the ninth and issued a one-out walk to A.J. Pierzynski. Alberto Callaspo grounded into a force at second in the next at bat. Two down. Jonny Gomes stepped in next and lined out to left.

Ballgame.

Nationals now 8-13