What started as a potentially glorious evening for the Nationals on Friday turned slowly into a sodden nightmare, as the team blew a franchise-record nine-run lead and fell to the Atlanta Braves 11-10 in 11 innings.
Paul Jarnish’s bloop singe off loser Tom Gorzelanny (2-2) drove in Dan Uggala with the winning run and made a winner out of Eric O’Flaherty (2-0), who tossed a scoreless tenth. Uggla led off the 11th with a single, took second on a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and advanced to third on a passed ball by Nats backup catcher Sandy Leon. Chad Durbin set down the Nats in order in the bottom of the 11th for his first save.
With a 9-8 lead in the ninth, Tyler Clippard failed to get the save for the third time in his past four outings, walking Uggla and hitting Jarnish as he tried to bunt Uggla over to second base. A one-out triple to Michael Bourn drove in both runners and put the braves ahead 10-9. Danny Espinosa extended the game to extra innings with a solo homer in the ninth off Craig Kimbrell, dealing the Braves closer his second blown save in 30 opportunities.
The near-capacity crowd of 34,228 was in a mood to celebrate early as the Nats had a chance to gain a game on every team in the NL East behind Stephen Strasburg, pitching on his 24th birthday. The Nats showered him with run support early on, a Michael Morse unleashed a three-run homer in the first, a 465-foot blast to the Red Porch restaurant in deep center field, and Ryan Zimmerman added a three-run shot of his own in the fourth, a line-drive into the left field stands.
Strasburg, meanwhile, had runners on base in nearly every inning, but he was working out of jams, and had a shutout with a seemingly safe lead entering the sixth. But a sky that had been threatening all evening finally opened up, and Strasburg lost whatever effectiveness he had, surrendering a leadoff single to Freddie Freeman and a two-run homer to Brian McCann.
After a single to Uggla and a ground rule double to Eric Hinske, Strasburg’s night was done after 5 1-3 innings, eight hits, five strikeouts and three walks. And after his teammates’ offensive generosity, it turned out the bullpen was in the most giving mood, as Michael Gonzalez allowed two inherited runners to score, and the rest allowed plenty more.
Gonzalez managed a scoreless seventh, but Drew Storen and Sean Burnett combined for a disastrous eighth, with Storen failing to retire either Uggla or Jarnish, and Burnett allowing a pair of two-out walks, including one to Jason Heyward that scored Uggla, followed by a two-run single to Chipper Jones and an RBI single to Fredde Freeman. That set the stage for the fateful ninth inning and the final, collapse in the 11th.
Champ of the Game: Morse, who now seems to be in full “beast mode.”
Chump of the Game: A loss like this has to be on the hands of the is nothing less than a total team collapse, but if one player has to be tagged, it’s Burnett, who could have gotten out of the eighth without allowing a run, but instead put the Braves in position to win.