Just when it looked like the Atlanta Braves were headed for an incredible comeback victory at the hands of Brian McCann, a two-run home run by Danny Espinosa dashed the hopes of Braves fans and made a heartbreaking loss seem inevitable.
Enter Nate McLouth.
McLouth, who has struggled all season and hadn’t hit a home run since May 14, hit a game-tying solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning. That set the stage for the dramatic events of the 9th inning.
After Craig Kimbrel induced an inning-ending groundout with runners on the corners in the top of the 9th to preserve the tie, another extra innings game was not an option.
Brooks Conrad led off the bottom of the 9th with a walk. After a sacrifice bunt by Jordan Schafer moved Conrad to second, Conrad had a major miscue on the bases by getting thrown out at third base on Martin Prado’s grounder to the shortstop. The Nationals then chose not to pitch to McCann after a stolen base by Prado.
That proved to be a mistake, as rookie Freddie Freeman hit a hard line drive into right field, scoring Prado easily. It was Freeman’s first career walk-off hit.
“I was just looking off-speed,” Freeman said. “I got a slider up and I was able to put a good swing on it. It was pretty cool. Mac was right there to hug me, so it was pretty cool. … I don’t think I’ve ever had one, never in professional.”
Jair Jurrjens had a forgettable game, giving up six runs on eight hits in five innings. It was not only his shortest outing of the season, but it was the first game in which he gave up more than four runs. The offense picked him up, however, specifically his battery-mate McCann.
McCann hit a game-tying three-run homer in the bottom of the 5th inning as the Braves rallied from a four-run deficit to take a one-run lead. The All-Star catcher now has 16 homers and 53 RBI on the season.
“I am most proud of my team today,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “They battled right from the get-go. JJ wasn’t his typical self but he kept us in the ballgame. To come back from that deficit, tie it, then they go ahead and McLouth’s big home run in the ninth. I’m real proud of the club. They were resilient. It wasn’t really pretty, but we’ll take it.”
Nationals starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny gave up two runs in two innings. He left with an injury after an awkward collision at the plate with McCann.
The Braves will travel to Colorado where Derek Lowe (5-7, 4.30 ERA) will face off against Jason Hammel (5-8, 4.23 ERA) on Monday night at 8:40 EDT.
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