Sep 17, 2013, 4:20 PM EST
Game in a nutshell: After seeing their lineup go cold following a three-run first inning and their bullpen blow a lead they held for over seven innings, the Nationals came through in the bottom of the ninth with a thrilling, walkoff victory over the Atlanta Braves. Denard Span is the hero with a one-out RBI groundball in the ninth off Craig Kimbrel, aided by a Andrelton Simmons error to give the Nats the winning run. Dan Haren gave the Nationals a strong start with six innings of one-run ball, the only run he allowed came off a sacrifice fly by Freddie Freeman in the sixth. The Nationals were up for much of the game, lost the lead, and then regained it off the best closer in the game. In taking back the win, the Nats prevented the Braves from being able to clinch the NL East division in the second game of the doubleheader. They now enter tonight 4 1/2 games out of the NL Wild Card race with a chance to get their first series win against Atlanta this season. Meanwhile, Cincinnati will battle the Astros at 8:10 p.m. in Texas.
Hitting highlight: The Nats entered the bottom of the ninth inning down 5-3 thanks to a late insurance run notched by the Braves in the top of the frame. Kimbrel had trouble finding the strike zone and walked Adam LaRoche to lead off the inning. A Wilson Ramos single and Anthony Rendon walk loaded the bases before a pinch-hitting Chad Tracy brought home the first run on a groundout to first base. Then came Span who hit a hard grounder up the middle. Simmons got a glove on it as Ramos came around to score and then couldn’t hold on as Rendon raced around third. All in all it was three runs in the bottom of the ninth and gave the Nats their 80th victory of the season.
Pitching lowlight: Haren did his job shutting down, for the most part, the dangerous Braves’ lineup. But once he left the game, it all began to unravel for the Nats. Storen allowed a run on three hits in the seventh, the run coming on a Dan Uggla RBI single in a pinch-hit situation. Clippard then gave up two in the eighth on a Evan Gattis home run to center field. Gattis jumped all over a high fastball in an 0-2 count. The Braves added another run for good measure in the top of the ninth off Ian Krol though it went down as unearned due to a throwing error by Harper and a botched routine grounder by Ian Desmond.
Key stat: Span extended his hitting streak to 27 games with a single in the second inning. That ties the MLB season high set by Michael Cuddyer of the Colorado Rockies.
Up next: The Nats and Braves play the second game of the doubleheader tonight at 7:05 p.m. Rookie Tanner Roark (6-0, 1.30) and Freddy Garcia (1-1, 1.32) are your starting pitchers.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
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