September 14, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper (34) celebrates with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) after a home run in the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. (Image Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE)

Game 144: Braves 2, Nationals 1

After successfully completing the sweep of the Mets in a critical season series Thursday, the Washington Nationals (89-55) failed to extend their winning streak in an ultimate pitcher’s duel Friday night as they opened their final season set against the Atlanta Braves (82-63).  Final score: 2-1, as Andrelton Simmons scored the winning run on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the 9th to secure the victory.

As aforementioned, both starters were extremely solid in this one.  Ross Detwiler would pitch six strong, allowing just one run and one walk on seven hits while striking out five in the contest.  To be fair, the Braves left a whopping ten runners on base but “The National Det” was certainly able to remain calm and get out of jams throughout the night.  The Braves would score their first run in the 4th, as Freddie Freeman doubled and Dan Uggla walked to quickly put two runners aboard.  Catcher David Ross would then ground into a fielder’s choice that got Freeman to third, and Andrelton Simmons finished off the job by contributing an RBI sac fly.  1-0 Braves through four.

The Nats definitely looked like a bunch of Danny Espinosas out there tonight, as Braves starter Kris Medlen would rack up 13 strikeouts to keep the away team in check from start to finish.  Medlen’s final line: 7IP, 5H, 1BB, 13K.  He had ten punch-outs through five innings when Bryce Harper finally answered in the 6th with a solo homerun to tie the game at one apiece.

Once the starters departed the game, it looked like we were bound for extras as a combination of five relievers between the teams kept all runners from reaching scoring position.  Unfortunately, Sean Burnett (L, 1-2) came in for the bottom of the 9th, and surrendered singles to Simmons and Michael Bourn to quickly put runners on the corners for the home team.  Ian Desmond might have been able to end the inning with a double-play on a Tyler Pastornicky ground ball to short, but Desmond’s wild throw to home allowed the Braves to score and end the game in dismal fashion for the Nats.

Nevertheless, Washington still holds a 7.5 game lead over Atlanta in the NL East as just 18 games remain on the regular season.

Champ of the Game: For the Nationals, this award certainly goes to Bryce Harper.  He went 2-3 with the homerun and a walk, and now has eight taters in his last 20 games.

Braves reliever-turned-starter Medlen was absolutely filthy tonight.  Atlanta hasn’t lost a game in which he’s pitched since July 23.

Chump of the Game: Another K-filled night for Danny Espinosa, who has certainly cooled off over the last week or so.  0-4, four strikeouts for the man who leads the NL in K’s with 169 this season.

For the Braves, David Ross (0-3, 2K) was the only starter besides Medlen not to reach base on the night.

Unsung Hero: Though he probably won’t receive much credit in the post-game press conferences, Detwiler continues to be a quality starter for this first-place franchise as the regular season winds down.  For a guy who’s faced the Braves five times this season, Detwiler definitely kept Atlanta guessing and was able to work out of numerous jams unscathed.

Next Game: Tomorrow, 4:05PM at Turner Field (on FOX!).  Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.85 ERA) vs. Tommy Hanson (12-8, 4.35 ERA) in a battle of righties.

Tags: Atlanta Braves Braves Bryce Harper Danny Espinosa Nationals Ross Detwiler Washington Nationals

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