Braves miss chance to gain on Nats, fall in 13

Braves miss chance to gain on Nats, fall in 13

Braves miss chance to gain on Nats, fall in 13
WASHINGTON -- The first game of their key series with the Nationals left the Braves shaking their heads afterward in a mixture of frustration and bewilderment.

Much of that came from the odd happenings in the unlucky bottom of the 13th, which ended on Washington's third infield single of the frame.

That's when Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla simply couldn't get the ball out of his glove when trying to throw home on a grounder that was ruled an infield single and let the Nationals score the winning run and hand the Braves a heartbreaking 5-4 loss after Monday night turned into Tuesday morning at Nationals Park.

"The ball never left the infield [in the inning]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Good breaks on their part, tough breaks on ours."

The Nationals (76-46) stretched their lead over the Braves (70-52) to six games with the win in the opener of a three-game series, a game that was delayed at the start for 56 minutes by rain. But it was a night when everything just seemed to bounce Washington's way and left the Braves shaking their heads afterward, especially because of how the 4-hour, 27-minute game ended.

Ian Desmond started the inning with a seeing-eye single that was knocked down behind second base. Danny Espinosa tried to bunt Desmond over, but pitcher Cristhian Martinez (5-3) threw to second for a force play. Kurt Suzuki then hit a high chopper that bounced off the plate toward third base.

Chipper Jones raced in to try and field it, but the ball deflected off his leg and rolled toward the mound. Espinosa alertly kept running and made it all the way to third with one out.

Pinch-hitter Chad Tracy then came up and hit a shot that Uggla grabbed on his knees. The infield was in, and Uggla said he'd been thinking about maybe tagging Suzuki and then trying for a double play. But Espinosa tried to score, and Uggla wanted to throw home -- it just didn't work.

"I just tried to throw the ball home," Uggla said. "I couldn't get the thing out of my glove. He got a good jump, and I just couldn't get it out of my glove."

The Nationals were rolling the dice on that play, trying to force Uggla's hand a bit.

"I was going on contact," Espinosa said. "I saw him dive. It was going to be a pretty tough play [to] try and throw me out. But I thought I had a good chance once I saw him dive, I thought I could beat it."

Despite the tough ending, Gonzalez said he liked how hard his team played, especially because they bounced back from an early 4-1 deficit.

But he also gave credit to a Nationals team that's been playing very strong baseball, especially in the second half of the season.

"When you're playing good baseball, and you're winning ballgames, that's the way you win," Gonzalez said. "That's the way it happens."

The Braves appeared to be in trouble early because Desmond's two-run homer in the first helped Washington score four times and take a 4-1 lead. Jason Heyward had an RBI single in the top of the first, but Braves starter Tim Hudson had his problems shortly afterward.

Hudson has battled through trouble against the Nationals -- he's now given up 17 runs in 18 2/3 innings this season. In addition, 20 of the 59 runs Hudson has allowed this year have come in the first inning.

"It's a combination of me not making some pitches and then a little bit of luck on their end," Hudson said. "It's a situation that I'm just not quite making good enough pitches in those situations."

The Braves came back thanks to a Paul Janish RBI infield single in the fourth and Heyward's two-run homer in the fifth. That tied the game, and it remained deadlocked until the craziness of the bottom of the 13th.

Both teams also got good work from their bullpens. The Nationals were down to their last relief pitcher, Craig Stammen (6-1), who got the win after pitching the final two innings. Manager Davey Johnson had used up his entire bullpen, and Tracy was batting for Stammen, which left the Nationals without relief pitchers.

But everything worked their way and went against the Braves, a big reason why the Atlanta locker room was quiet and people were just kind of shaking their heads.

"Sometimes when you're good, you have things go your way," Hudson said. "That last inning was Little League-esque, [with] the choppers and, you know, the hits. But they've won a lot of those kinds of games this year."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.