As soon as Andrelton Simmons bailed out Randall Delgado from a loss and himself from a costly error in the third inning, the Atlanta Braves found themselves on the short end of a rally, dropping the series opener to the Washington Nationals 5-4 at Turner Field on Friday.
The Braves scored all four of their runs in the seventh inning to climb back from a 4-0 deficit, but Michael Morse teed off on the first pitch he saw from Chad Durbin in the eighth for a solo home run to give the Nats the lead.
"You want emotional games like this, because you want to battle and win," Simmons said. "After you win, you feel good about yourself, and that you accomplished something. But after battling that much and losing, it hurts."
After a rough start to the season, it was just the third run Durbin had given up in 18 innings since May 7.
"Coming back scoring four in [the seventh inning] puts all the pressure on them," Durbin said. "They start to think about who [they are] going to throw out there with the matchups. To give back a run that quick, on the first pitch … if it's 2-0, maybe you feel a little better about it, but it's not a good feeling."
The Braves capitalized on mistakes made by Washington starter Ross Detwiler to tie the game in the seventh. Freddie Freeman got hit by a pitch with one out, and Jack Wilson, who was filling in at second base to give Dan Uggla a night off, singled on a bunt. After Detwiler balked the runners to second and third, Martin Prado hit a pinch-hit RBI-single, and Michael Bourn hit a sacrifice fly. Simmons followed with his third homer of the year to tie the ballgame.
Atlanta also seemed in prime position to at least tie the game when Freeman doubled off Tyler Clippard to start the ninth, but he would be stranded at second as Eric Hinske, Bourn and Simmons would all fly out.
"We got a lot of hits, but we just didn't capitalize," Simmons said.
Simmons also left the bases loaded in the fifth inning with a flyout, but not until after he made costly error in the third.
Delgado had not pitched particularly lights out, even giving up an RBI-single to Detwiler in the second inning, just the fourth hit of his career, but disaster struck in the third.
After using 50 pitches through the first two innings, Delgado recorded two quick outs to start the third. It was then that Adam LaRoche reached on an error by Wilson and Morse singled on a sharp grounder that Chipper Jones couldn't corral. Simmons fielded the deflection and attempted to get LaRoche straying too far off second but threw the ball into the outfield, allowing the runners to move up to second and third. That set up the fateful two-run knock from Ian Desmond.
"I was trying to help out the team," Simmons said. "I saw two balls go off gloves. I was trying to back-pick LaRoche at second. I was too aggressive. I've got to be better than that."
Delgado needed 90 pitches to get through four innings while giving up four runs – two earned – in getting the no decision.
"Delgado didn't pitch particularly well," Fredi Gonzalez said. "But I thought that third inning, after probably laboring through the first couple innings, he goes out gets the first two guys with quick outs. Then we didn't help him too much after that, making some mistakes behind him."
The Braves now sit 4 1/2 games behind Washington in the NL East race, having lost five of six games with the Nationals. They now have the pleasure of facing Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez in the final two games of the series.
Wilson got his first start since May 30 in order to give Dan Uggla a rest after batting .108 in his last 20 games. Prado also was not initially in the starting lineup due to tightness in his hamstring.
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