3-run 8th key as Nats battle back vs. Braves

3-run 8th key as Nats battle back vs. Braves

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals scored three runs in the eighth inning and defeated the Braves, 9-7, at Nationals Park on Tuesday night. With the victory, the magic number for Washington to win the National League East is down to 16.

The score was tied at 6 when Washington took the lead against Braves reliever Jose Ramirez. With runners on first and second and no outs, pinch-hitter Ben Revere tried to bunt his way on. Braves catcher Tyler Flowers grabbed the ball in front of him and threw the ball past third baseman Adonis Garcia, allowing Michael Taylor to score on the error.

"It was definitely the right play, I was prepared for it," Flowers said. "I knew before Revere got in the box and before the pitch was coming, it was going to be a bang-bang play. Taylor is a good baserunner. … I knew if I got my hand on it, it had to be quick. I went through it all in my head, but I imagined it being a little more accurate."

Taylor scores on an error

Trea Turner followed and singled to center, scoring Danny Espinosa and Revere.

The Braves got off to a good start against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, establishing an early 4-1 lead. Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson highlighted the scoring with an inside-the-park home run in the second inning.

But the Nationals took the lead in the third off Braves right-hander Williams Perez. Anthony Rendon gave Washington a 5-4 lead by hitting his first grand slam. Two batters later, Washington had a two-run lead, thanks to a solo home run by Ryan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman's solo homer

"That brought the crowd back in the game," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "The power of positive thinking goes a long way, especially in this game. Anthony has been great, driving in those runs."

Atlanta tied the score at 6 in the fourth inning. Braves reliever Joel De La Cruz drove in the tying run with a single to left field.

De La Cruz's RBI single

Rendon leads the way: Down, 4-1, the Nationals scored five runs in the third inning off Perez. After singles by Jayson Werth, Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, Rendon was down, 0-2, when he clubbed the first grand slam of his career. Since the All-Star break, Anthony Rendon is 53-for-168 (.315) with eight home runs and 36 RBIs.

Rendon's grand slam

"I just tried to drive the ball to the outfield," Rendon said. "I tried to get a sacrifice fly and get a hit. I just try to put the barrel on the ball." More >

Unique first: Swanson began his three-RBI game when his two-out line drive off the center-field wall in the second inning resulted in his first career home run. According to Statcast™, the highly regarded shortstop raced around the bases in 14.97 seconds -- the fastest plate-to-plate reading recorded on a home run this season. Swanson became the first Braves player to have an inside-the-park homer account for his first career round-tripper since Paul Runge in 1985.

Statcast: Swanson speeds home

"It went farther than I thought it was going to go," Swanson said. "It's just Baseball 101: Hit it and run until it's caught or until they stop you." More >

An outing to forget: Gonzalez never had a clean inning and ended up throwing three-plus innings and allowing six runs on eight hits. It was one of his shortest outings of the year, and he saw his ERA go up to 4.40.

Gonzalez's RBI single

"My ball wasn't as sharp as I wanted," Gonzalez said. "It wasn't giving that extra bite, that extra giddyup. There were a couple of batters that were fouling off 10 pitches. That doesn't help. It was an unfortunate night. The ball was landing in no-man's land. It was a tough night for me to go out there and keep us in the game."

Walks sting: After Perez's first start since straining his right rotator cuff on June 6 was blemished by five third-inning hits, including Rendon's grand slam and Zimmerman's solo shot, De La Cruz, Shae Simmons and Ian Krol held the Nationals scoreless through the end of the seventh. But Ramirez was not able to overcome the two walks he issued within the first 11 pitches he threw in the decisive eighth inning. Ramirez entered the game having issued just one walk over his past 10 1/3 innings.

"He's been nails," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's been about as good as you can get. Every now and then, that's going to happen."

Ender Inciarte extended MLB's longest current hitting streak to 17 games when he began Atlanta's two-run first inning with a single. Inciarte is the first player in Atlanta history (since 1966) to have two hitting streaks of at least 17 games in the same season. He had a 19-game streak from July 19-Aug. 9.

Perez and Gonzalez combined to record 16 outs while throwing 158 pitches.

By stealing his 20th base, Harper has his first 20-20-20 season (22 doubles, 23 homers, 20 stolen bases). According to Baker, stealing bases forces opposing pitchers to pitch to Harper more often. In fact, earlier in the season, Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds challenged Harper to steal more bases.

"If Harper wasn't stealing, opposing pitchers would walk him and it wouldn't be a big deal," Baker said.

Baker would like Harper to work on his sliding when he attempts to steal bases.

"He is not an excellent slider yet," Baker said. "We'll work on that next spring."

Braves: Mike Foltynewicz will take the mound as Atlanta concludes this three-game series on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Foltynewicz will be bidding to win three consecutive starts for the first time in his career.

Nationals: The Nationals look to sweep the Braves on Wednesday at Nationals Park. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will be activated from the disabled list and pitch for the first time since Aug. 17.

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Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.