Nats walk off on Taylor's 10th-inning homer, gain on Mets
By Jacob Emert and Mark Bowman
WASHINGTON -- Left out of the starting lineup with a sore right knee, Michael Taylor was called off the bench in the bottom of the 10th and made history, crushing a three-run walk-off home run to catapult the Nationals to a 5-2 win over Atlanta on Friday.
The win moved the Nationals to within five games of the Mets, who lost, 6-5, in 11 innings to the Marlins on Friday night.
"It was very exciting for me, just to be able to help the team," Taylor said of the first pinch-hit walk-off home run in team history. "I wasn't in there. I want to play. I was standing at the bat rack the whole game trying to get in the game. Just to be able to get in there and get a chance, I was happy for that."
In the bottom of the ninth, with the Nationals trailing, 2-1, and down to their final out, Matt den Dekker extended the game with an RBI single off Atlanta's Arodys Vizcaino to force extra innings.
"I was just trying to take a short stroke on it and not do too much," said den Dekker.. "A guy throwing that hard, you can't really get too big. You gotta stay short and stay through the middle and that's what I did."
The Braves have lost 17 of their past 18 games and 24 of the past 26 played on the road.
"I'm really pleased with our club after the thumping we took [Thursday]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "To come out and pitch and play with some energy and some enthusiasm, it was a fun game of baseball we played today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Unloading the bases: With runners at the corners and two outs in the third inning, the Braves intentionally walked Bryce Harper, who had launched a 446-foot blast, according to Statcast™, in the first, to load the bases for the red-hot Ryan Zimmerman, who flied out to right to end the threat. Zimmerman improved to 6-for-26 against Teheran with a leadoff single that helped the Nationals load the bases in the sixth. The Braves hurler ended his 114-pitch night and escaped this threat by striking out Ian Desmond and inducing Jose Lobaton's soft fly ball to left field. This was one of the most impressive starts of the season produced by Teheran, whose fastball consistently sat between 94-95 mph as he allowed one run over six innings.
"I feel really good," Teheran said. "I got in trouble, but I never gave up. My mind is strong. I was just trying to make pitches and trying to show my team that I wanted to stay in there."
Call for help: Tanner Roark entered his start on an 85-pitch limit, and that number was approaching quickly in the fifth after the right-hander allowed a walk and a double. After a mound visit bought time for Matt Thornton in the bullpen, the Nationals intentionally walked Freeman -- who entered the game 99-for-292 (.339) against Washington and had already knocked two hits -- to load the bases with one out. Manager Matt Williams then called for Thornton, who got A.J. Pierzynski to pop out into shallow left field and Adonis Garcia to ground out softly to second to end the threat..
"A.J., I knew he'd be swinging. I told Lobi what the game plan was and went from there," Thornton said. "Then, trusted Lobi on the young kid that came up after him. … Try to get the two outs before anyone scored. I got pretty lucky there and made the pitches when I needed to even though I fell behind on both of them. But in that situation, it's just try to find a way."
Viz times two: Instead of taking a chance with any of his other less-reliable relievers, Gonzalez gave Vizcaino a chance to notch his first two-inning save. Vizcaino walked Harper to begin the bottom of the eighth, but was the beneficiary of a Clint Robinson liner that resulted in an inning-ending double play. Yunel Escobar doubled to begin the bottom of the ninth and scored on den Dekker's game-tying single. Vizcaino had successfully converted each of his previous save opportunities. He's allowed just two earned runs in 22 1/3 innings. More >
On, over and in: Needing at least one run to stay alive, Escobar started off the bottom of the ninth inning with a flared double into right field. Desmond missed on his first two sacrifice bunt attempts, but he stayed with it and moved pinch-runner Trea Turner to third base. Wilson Ramos struck out, but den Dekker came through and gave the Nationals a chance to win it in the 10th.
"Sam [Palace, bullpen catcher] and Ali [Modami, BP pitcher] do a great job down in the cage keeping us ready, throwing us BP and going over situations and pitchers coming up," den Dekker said. "Just staying ready physically and mentally and just being ready for that spot."
"Julio pitched really well. He wiggled out of some situations. There were a couple situations there in the sixth inning where we could have taken him out, but the way we've been going, it was his game." -- Gonzalez
"I don't think it makes this win any bigger. I think it makes the rest of the season bigger. Like I said, it's not going to be one game, it's not going to be a series here or there. It's going to be us being able to keep the momentum that we have right now and carrying that throughout the rest of the season till the last game of the season. And that's all we can do, lay it out there and compete. Like I said, this is playoff baseball and it's where we're at." -- closer Jonathan Papelbon, after finding out the Mets lost
WHAT'S NEXT Braves:Shelby Miller will be attempting to earn his first win since May 17 when he takes the mound Saturday night against the Nationals. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. Miller has allowed two earned runs or fewer 12 times during his 19-start winless streak..
Nationals: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will pitch against the Braves on Saturday night. In his last outing against St. Louis, Gonzalez pitched through the sixth for just the second time in August. He was 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA last month.