When it seemed the Atlanta Braves were in for another series of struggling against the Washington Nationals, they overcame a nine-run deficit, gave up the lead and then finally held on in 11 innings to win 11-10 Friday night at Nationals Park.
With the last Braves comeback of nine runs coming on June 7, 1987, win over the San Diego Padres and staring a deficit of 4 1/2 games in the National League East, Atlanta very well could have called it a night and focused on Saturday's doubleheader.
"I still can't believe it," Chipper Jones said. "Nine-to-nothing, it's never happened to me since I've been here."
After a particularly rough outing for Tommy Hanson in which he gave up eight runs over four innings, the Braves were down nine in the sixth, but they trimmed the Nationals' lead to one in the eighth and took the lead in the ninth, only to have Craig Kimbrel blow a save in a rare occurrence. Paul Janish would hit the game-winning bloop single in the 11th for their ninth win in 11 games.
Dan Uggla may have snapped out of his rough month and a half, recording three hits. His third of the night started off the 11th inning, and he moved up to third base on a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman. After Tom Gorzelanny uncorked a wild pitch, Uggla was able to trot home after Janish's dinker of a hit.
Hanson seemed destined to be stuck with a loss after his efforts on the mound. His trouble started when he walked Zimmerman with two outs in the first inning. Two batters later, Michael Morse launched a towering three-run homer in what would turn out to be a 34-pitch inning. He would give up another three-run bomb with two outs to Zimmerman in the fourth.
After Hanson left in the fifth with no outs recorded, rookie reliever Luis Avilan walked Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg with the bases loaded and promptly gave up a two-run single to Steve Lombardozzi.
The Braves finally responded in the sixth inning when Brian McCann belted a two-run homer off Strasburg in the sixth inning. After Uggla singled and Eric Hinske doubled, Martin Prado drove them in with his own two-bagger in the four-run sixth.
Jason Heyward drew a bases-loaded walk, Chipper would add a two-run single, and Freddie Freeman would tack on an RBI-single off Sean Burnett in the eighth inning.
Down one in the ninth, Nationals closer Tyler Clippard walked Uggla and beaned Janish to set up Michael Bourn and his go-ahead triple high off the right field wall.
Kimbrel would have a shot at his 29th save, but after striking out 44 and allowing one run over his last 26 innings, a fastball caught too much of the plate. Danny Espinosa deposited that one over the left-center field fence to tie the game at 10.
The blown save was just the second this year for Kimbrel, who also blew a save in the Braves' 15-13 win in 11 innings over the Philadelphia Phillies on May 2.
The win brings the Braves' record against the Nationals to just 3-6, but they now stand just 2 1/2 games out of the NL East lead with a doubleheader Saturday and the series finale Sunday.
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