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Nats rally in 9th, top Braves in DH opener
Washington, DC (Sports Network) - The Washington Nationals scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to rally past the Atlanta Braves, 6-5, in the opener of a day-night doubleheader at Nationals Park.
Denard Span's grounder went through the legs of Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons, allowing the tying and winning runs to score, as the Nationals won their second straight and ninth in 10 games to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Chad Tracy drove a run in during the ninth-inning rally and Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche had an RBI each for Washington, which now trails the Cincinnati Reds by 4 1/2 games for the NL's final wild card spot. The Reds are at the Houston Astros Tuesday night.
Craig Kimbrel (3-3) blew his first save chance since May 7. He was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on one hit and two walks in the ninth.
Evan Gattis hit a two-run homer for the Braves, who have lost two in a row and eight of 12. Atlanta's magic number to clinch the NL East remains at four.
Monday's originally scheduled game between these two teams was postponed in the wake of a deadly shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, forcing today's doubleheader. The Navy Yard is just blocks away from Nationals Park.
Span ended 1-for-4 and extended his hitting streak to 27 games with a second- inning single, tying Michael Cuddyer for the longest hit streak in the majors this season.
Kimbrel got in trouble right away in the bottom of the ninth, walking leadoff hitter LaRoche. Wilson Ramos followed with a grounder up the middle that second baseman Elliot Johnson dove to get to, but couldn't get the lead runner. Anthony Rendon then walked to load the bases for Tracy, whose pinch- hit groundout to first drew the Nats within a run.
Span then hit a grounder up the middle that Simmons got to, only to see it go through his five-hole and into center field, allowing the winning runs to score.
Ian Krol (2-1), who recorded the final out in the top of the ninth, got the win for Washington, which has won all seven games at home against the Braves this season.
The Nats got going right away, scoring three runs off Braves starter Mike Minor in the first inning. Span and Ryan Zimmerman began the game with consecutive walks, and Werth followed with a double to plate Span before Harper grounded out to first, bringing in Zimmerman with the second run. LaRoche later connected on a two-out single to score Werth for a 3-0 lead.
Minor settled down after his shaky first inning, allowing just one hit the rest of the way and retiring 13 straight before being lifted for a pinch- hitter in the seventh inning. Luis Ayala and David Carpenter followed by retiring the next five batters, but the streak was snapped when Harper walked against Luis Avilan with two outs in the eighth.
Washington starter Dan Haren was also cruising until allowing a run in the sixth. Johnson began the frame with a double, moved to third on a Justin Upton flyout to right, and scored on a Freddie Freeman sac fly.
Haren was lifted in favor of Drew Storen in the seventh and the Braves took advantage, getting another run on Dan Uggla's pinch-hit RBI single.
Gattis then put the Braves ahead, 4-3, in the eighth thanks to his two-run blast that ended a personal 0-for-18 drought at the plate. Atlanta added another run in the ninth when Johnson scored on an Ian Desmond fielding error.
Minor was charged with three runs on three hits, striking out three and walking four, in six innings. Haren yielded just one run on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks in six frames.
Nats players and coaches wore special Navy hats during batting practice, as well as a moment of silence and the National Anthem before the game ... LaRoche has reached base safely in 12 of 13 games ... Freeman's RBI gives him 100 for the year. He is the first Braves first baseman since Andres Galarraga in 2002 to hit the 100-RBI mark.
09/17 16:45:55 ET
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