Nats play Braves tough in walk-off loss

Nats play Braves tough in walk-off loss

ATLANTA -- Right-handers Livan Hernandez and Tim Hudson engaged in a pitchers' duel on Wednesday, but they didn't figure in the decision -- as the Braves defeated the Nationals, 3-2, at Turner Field.

The score was tied at 2 when the Braves scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning. With one out and Nats reliever Tyler Clippard on the mound, Jason Heyward took a 3-0 pitch and singled to center field, scoring Rick Ankiel.

"It wasn't the best pitch to hit," Heyward said of the fastball that tailed down and away. "But it was good enough to get the job done."

Clippard was surprised that Heyward swung at the 3-0 pitch. Clippard felt Heyward would take the pitch and let Martin Prado, Atlanta's best hitter, come to the plate.

"Looking back, I was really surprised [that Heyward swung at the 3-0 pitch]," Clippard said. "Their best hitter is coming up next. I wasn't really throwing strikes. Then again, you have to tip your cap. He had a base hit."

Left-hander Sean Burnett picked up his seventh loss of the season in relief, while Washington lost its 69th game of the season.

"We would like to win games, but we are losing games. It's very frustrating," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "You see the intensity the players are playing with. They are playing hard. What else can you ask from a ballplayer except [to] go out and give you a good effort? We did that. We didn't play good, but we played hard."

Hernandez lasted seven innings and allowed two runs on nine hits. He was given a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning, thanks to RBI singles by Roger Bernadina and Ryan Zimmerman.

"I felt good. I tried not to make too many mistakes because Hudson is a good pitcher," Hernandez said. "He is having a good year this year. It has been difficult. I had to face him three times.

"You know, we are fighting and fighting. Then again, we lost. It was a tough loss for us. We'll come back tomorrow and try to win one game out of three."

After the Zimmerman hit, the Nationals collected only three hits off Hudson -- who would pitch seven innings and allow two runs on eight hits.

Washington's next biggest chance to score off Hudson came in the fourth inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Willie Harris hit into an inning-ending double play.

"I don't want to give up that many hits or let that many guys get on base," Hudson said. "But on a night where I wasn't as crisp as I'd like to be, it was nice to get two outs with one pitch."

But Hudson would end up with a no-decision after the Braves tied the score at 2 in the bottom of the fourth inning. With the bases loaded and no outs, Prado scored on a double-play grounder by Melky Cabrera.

Alex Gonzalez followed and blooped a single over the head of second baseman Adam Kennedy to tie the score at 2.

It was a game that also saw Zimmerman and Riggleman get ejected in the eighth inning. After Zimmerman struck out swinging to end the bottom of the eighth inning, he threw his bat and helmet in disgust. He didn't say anything, but home-plate umpire Scott Barry ejected Zimmerman.

It marked the second consecutive game that a member of the Nationals received an ejection. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez was ejected for arguing balls and strikes on Tuesday by third-base umpire Brian Knight.

According to Riggleman and Zimmerman, Barry believed the bat and helmet tossing from Zim was directed at the umpire -- but that wasn't the case. Zimmerman said he was simply frustrated at himself for striking out.

Barry declined to comment after the game.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.