After a 221-minute rain delay, the Washington Nationals (63-52) and Atlanta Braves (56-54) could not decide a winner in nine innings, but RBIs from Wilson Ramos and Kevin Frandsen led the Nationals to a 4-1 win in extras.
With the win, the Nationals have reclaimed their 4.5-game lead in the NL East. They sit a game behind the Milwaukee Brewers and a game and a half behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League overall.
Way back at the beginning of this game, both teams’ offenses scuffled, missing many opportunities. In fact, neither team had a hit with a runner in scoring position until Ramos’s tie-breaking single in the 11th. The rain delay meant tonight’s game didn’t begin until 10:50pm, despite a scheduled 7:10 start, and ended at 2:29am local time.
Nationals starter Tanner Roark was not as sharp as he has been, but gutted it out and ended up turning in a great start. He ended up tossing seven innings and giving up just one run, despite six hits and an uncharacteristic three walks against him. He escaped trouble multiple times, most notably giving up just one run on a sacrifice fly after the Braves loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning. He seemed done after that frame, but stayed in and struck out two in a perfect seventh, finishing with 110 pitches.
Aaron Harang was similarly strong for Atlanta, limiting the Nats to one run in seven innings, a solo homer from Adam LaRoche. He escaped trouble as well, putting two men on to open the fourth but retiring the next three Nats to wriggle out.
Both bullpens were stellar through 10 innings, with the Nationals giving up two hits and two walks over three scoreless, while the Braves tossed three perfect frames. But in the 11th, some questionable decisions from Manager Fredi Gonzalez helped hand the Nationals the win.
David Carpenter (L, 4-2), who threw a perfect 10th, gave up two singles to open the 11th. With runners on first and second and lefty Bryce Harper due up, Gonzalez called upon lefty trade acquisition James Russell from his bullpen. Harper drew the ire of Braves fans earlier in the game when he dragged his foot across the Braves script A in the dirt behind home plate, smearing it. But if Gonzalez truly wanted to put Harper in his place, Russell was a poor choice.
Not only has Harper hit .298 against lefties versus just .228 against lefties this season, but also Russell had ceded a .314 average to lefties in 2014. So it was no shock when Russell walked Harper to load the bases with one out. In came Anthony Varvaro, a righty who gave up two runs to the Nationals the previous night. Curiously, Varvaro may have been the smart choice against Harper, having held opposing lefties to a .150 average, but he instead faced righties Ramos and Frandsen, who singled and doubled respectively to drive in three runs and give the Nats a 4-1 lead. It also may have been smart to pit Russell against the righties, who have only hit .113 against him this season. But Gonzalez chose to stick with traditional platoons, and was burned for it.
From there, the choice was easy for Nationals manager Matt Williams: closer Rafael Soriano came in and made quick work of the Braves with a three-run lead, earning his 26th save of the year.
For all that has been made of the Braves’ recent success against the Nationals, Washington has now won three of its last four games against Atlanta, and will take its shot at winning the series tomorrow on ESPN.