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Washington Nationals settle for series win, drop finale to Atlanta Braves, 5-3 in extras

Washington kept battling back, tying it up in the bottom of the ninth and eleventh innings before finally succumbing to Atlanta in the series finale with the Braves in Nationals Park...

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MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Cole was much better this time out, though he did still give up two home runs in 5 13 innings on the mound in the series finale with the Atlanta Braves in Nationals Park.

It was a 2-1 game in the Braves’ favor until the bottom of the ninth, when Matt Adams tied it up with a one-out solo shot to left-center off Arodys Vizcaino on a 98 mph 1-1 fastball.

Michael A. Taylor singled, took two bases on an errant pick attempt and wild pitch, but was stranded at third as it went to extras.

Shawn Kelley gave up a go-ahead home run by Kurt Suzuki in the top of the eleventh (after Suzuki homered off Cole in the 4th), but Howie Kendrick tied it back up with an RBI double to left-center that drove Bryce Harper in from second, 3-3.

Atlanta took the lead again in the top of the twelfth, however, on a two-run single by Peter Bourjos, and the Braves made the lead stick, 5-3 final.

Cole’s Revenge?: In spite of the results in his first start of 2018 after taking the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation this Spring (10 H, 2 HRs, 10 ER, 3 BB in 3 23 IP), A.J. Cole said he felt fine physically against the Braves when he faced them earlier this month in Atlanta.

“The body felt pretty good for the most part,” the 26-year-old right-hander said. “I was just missing, just by a little, fell behind in the counts a little bit, and then they got into hitters’ counts.”

Though his grasp on the final rotation spot seems tenuous, Cole, who is out of options, said he was not thinking about anything but the task at hand on the mound in SunTrust Park.

“I was just trying to go into the game like any other game,” he said.

“Just trying to compete and go after the guys. Our players got ahead of them, and I just tried going out there and getting right back in the dugout and I fell behind and that hurt me.”

This afternoon in Nationals Park, the 2010 Nats’ 4th Round pick faced the Braves again, and got off to another rough start.

Three pitches in, Cole was trailing 1-0 after Ozzie Albies hit a first-pitch fastball, knee high, and center-cut, out to right-center field for a solo home run that put the visiting team up.

Cole retired ten straight Braves’ batters after Freddie Freeman hit a one-out double in the first, but Kurt Suzuki ended that streak with a solo shot to left and off the foul pole on a 1-1 slider in the fourth, 2-1 Atlanta.

A one-out walk to Freddie Freeman in the sixth ended Cole’s outing, with the Nationals still trailing, 2-1.

A.J. Cole’s Line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 2 HRs, 76 P, 47 S, 3/5 GO/FO.

Sometimes Stats Are Just Mean: The Atlanta Braves’ pregame notes featured the following information for today’s series finale in D.C. — “[A.J. Cole] is the only pitcher since the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966 to allow at least nine runs in multiple starts against the Braves.” [ed. note - “Since we’re being mean, I don’t like the way they used ‘Braves’ twice in one sentence, there that will teach them. How about ‘since the franchise’ moved to Atlanta to avoid the bad repetition? Your welcome. Damn it, I meant ‘you’re’!!!”]

Pedro “My Time” Severino: Pedro Severino’s play early in 2018, and his development behind the dish this season, led the Nationals to make the decision to designate veteran catcher Miguel Montero for assignment this morning, when Matt Wieters returned from the 10-Day DL. Severino improved to 8 for 20 (.400 AVG) with a leadoff single and the Nats’ first hit in the bottom of the third, and he scored from second two outs later on an RBI single to left by Trea Turner that tied things up at 1-1. #VotePedro. Severino was 1 for 2 with a walk, K, and a run scored on the day to that point...

Brandon McCarthy Goes All Martin Riggs: Brandon McCarthy covered first on an inning-ending groundout to Freddie Freeman in the Nationals’ fifth, but the throw was somewhat behind the pitcher, and he appeared to dislocate his shoulder as he reached back for it. Ouch. And to make it all that much worse, the Braves’ trainer then appeared to pop the shoulder back into place on the field, in front of everyone... Ewww. Hope he’s okay.

Brandon McCarthy’s Line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 61 P, 37 S, 8/0 GO/FO.

Harper vs Atlanta: Bryce Harper’s 1 for 4 game against Atlanta last night left him 3 for 10 with two homers, six runs scored, 10 walks, and two Ks in five games against the Nationals’ NL East rivals early this season, and he entered the finale of the three-game set with the Braves in D.C. this afternoon leading all MLB hitters in HRs (6), walks (16), OBP (.529), and SLG (.879), and tied for second in RBIs (12).

Harper was 0 for 3 on the day after he lined back to Braves’ lefty Sam Freeman to start a 1-3 DP in the top of the sixth, and 0 for 4 after he chased a 1-2 fastball from lefty A.J. Minter out of the zone for out No. 3 in the Nats’ eighth.

Bullpen Action: Matt Grace recorded the final two outs of the sixth, and came back out in the seventh. Atlanta put two runners on when a force at second on a grounder off Charlie Culberson’s bat was reversed upon review, but Howie Kendrick, whose foot came off the bag on the attempted DP, got it right in the next AB, turning an inning-ending 4-3 on a one-out grounder off Lane Adams’ bat. Still 2-1 Braves.

Sendley!!!: Braves’ right-hander Dan Winkler hit Matt Adams in the quad in the first at bat of the Nats’ half of the seventh, and two outs and a walk to Pedro Severino later, Nationals’ third base coach Bob Henley waved Adams around on a Wilmer Difo single to left, only to watch as the slow-footed first baseman was thrown out at the plate for the final out of the inning. Not. even. close. But aggressive and all that, sure.

Back to the Bullpen: Sammy Solis worked around a one-out single for a scoreless, 13-pitch eighth. A.J. Minter struck out the side in the Nationals’ half of the eighth. Brandon Kintzler tossed a scoreless top of the ninth to keep it a one-run game, and Matt Adams took a 98 mph 1-1 fastball from Arodys Vizcaino for a ride to left-center field for a game-tying, one-out home run, 2-2. Adams’ second of 2018.

Michael A. Taylor hit a two-out single, and took second base on an errant pick attempt with Pedro Severino at the plate, before going to third on a wild pitch, setting Pedro Severino up with a chance to walk off on the Braves, but a groundout sent it to extras.

Sean Doolittle issued a leadoff walk to Ender Inciarte in the top of the tenth inning, and Inciarte stole second base with Ozzie Albies up, took third as part of a double steal along with Freddie Freeman, and then tried to steal home only to get thrown out, barely, at the plate. It had to be reviewed, but the call was upheld. Nice try, Ender. That is sincere, btw.

Jose Ramirez retired the Nationals in order in the home-half of the tenth.

Shawn Kelley took over for the Nationals in the eleventh, and gave up a leadoff home run to left by Kurt Suzuki, whose second of the game put the Braves back on top, 3-2.

Shane Carle came on to try to end it in the Nats’ half of the eleventh, and gave up a leadoff single to right by Bryce Harper, who scored from second two outs later on a game-tying RBI double to left-center by Howie Kendrick, 3-3.

Ryan Madson gave up back-to-back singles by Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman in the top of the twelfth inning, and a base-loading walk to Nick Markakis set Kurt Suzuki up with an opportunity to put the Braves back on top.

Suzuki popped out to the infield, but Peter Bourjos drove in two runs with a single to right, 5-3.

Carle returned to the mound in the bottom of the inning and... retired the Nationals in order.

Final Score: 5-3 Braves

Nationals now 6-6