Jul 17, 2011, 10:52 PM EST
Associated Press photo
Sean Burnett reacts after giving up a three-run homer in the fifth inning.
ATLANTA — Presented an opportunity to take a series from the wild-card-leading Braves and gain a little ground in the standings, the Nationals instead squandered it, losing 9-8 Sunday afternoon when rookie Ryan Mattheus allowed a walk-off single to Freddie Freeman.
Really, though, this game was lost the moment Tom Gorzelanny had to depart before the bottom of the third, having sprained his ankle trying to bowl over catcher Brian McCann in a rare baserunning adventure for the Nationals starter.
From that moment on, manager Davey Johnson was forced to max out his bullpen, asking four relievers to churn out seven quality innings of work.
The end result was perhaps all too predictable. All four relievers were scored upon, two of them serving up titanic homers that tied the game and deflated the Nationals’ dugout.
“I used about everybody,” Johnson said. “I went as far as I could.”
Making matters worse, Johnson didn’t have his designated long reliever available. Normally, a situation like this would scream for that
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