ATLANTA -- As Nationals manager Dusty Baker often says, "The Braves never give up." And that was proven once again on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field as Atlanta rallied for a 7-6 win on Jace Peterson's walk-off home run in the 10th inning.With the score tied at 6, Peterson --
ATLANTA -- As Nationals manager Dusty Baker often says, "The Braves never give up." And that was proven once again on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field as Atlanta rallied for a 7-6 win on Jace Peterson's walk-off home run in the 10th inning.
With the score tied at 6, Peterson -- who also crashed into the wall in center to make a catch in the third inning -- swung at a 3-2 pitch off Shawn Kelley and hit the ball into the right-field seats for his seventh home run of the season.
"I was totally comfortable walking Peterson," Kelley said. "But I went with the slider and left it right there."
"I've faced [Kelley] in the past, and he has a really good slider," Peterson said. "He hung that slider, and normally he doesn't do that at all. Normally he's pretty consistent with his slider. Fortunately enough for me, it was up in the zone and I was able to put a good swing on it."
It was a game that saw the Nationals make a season-high five errors.
The game was scoreless until the third when Washington scored four runs off right-hander Joel De La Cruz. Bryce Harper highlighted the scoring with a three-run homer.
Atlanta answered by scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning off left-hander Gio Gonzalez. Nick Markakis drove in two runs with a double, while Markakis scored on an error by center fielder Trea Turner.
But the Nationals would add to the lead in the sixth, when De La Cruz allowed a two-run homer to Chris Heisey -- his eighth of the season.
Atlanta tied the game with a two-run eighth that also featured a 64-minute rain delay. Matt Kemp highlighted the scoring with a solo homer, while an error by Yusmeiro Petit put Atlanta in position to tie the score at 6 on Gordon Beckham's double-play grounder.
"We swung the bats well this series," Markakis said. "We didn't win as many games as we wanted to, but we battled back, we had some good at-bats and faced a great team with some good pitching. That's all you can ask for is to go out there, do what you're supposed to do and hope for the best."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Too many defensive mistakes: The Nationals' five errors were the most they had in a game since July 15, 2011. The first error occurred in the first when shortstop Danny Espinosa bobbled a ball off the bat of Dansby Swanson. Two innings later, Espinosa made a throwing error that allowed a run to score for the Braves. Later in the third, Turner caught a fly ball off the bat of Kemp, but dropped the ball on the transfer to allow Markakis to score from third base. In the sixth, Daniel Murphy's wild throw to first base allowed Anthony Recker to score. Then, in the eighth, Petit made a throwing error that put runners on second and third with no outs. The Braves would later tie the score.
"We didn't play a good game at all," Baker said. "We would have been lucky to win the game with five errors. The game is not meant to be played with 32 outs to 27 outs." More >
Versatile and tough: Peterson had never previously played center field at the big league level, but his athleticism was appreciated when he prevented at least one additional run from scoring during the ugly third inning when he caught Heisey's long drive just before smacking into the center-field wall. The versatile utility man was dazed momentarily but he remained in the game and helped pull the Braves within two runs with an infield single in the sixth inning. Then on a 3-2 pitch in the 10th, he put his final mark on the game with his walk-off homer.
"It was fun," said Peterson about the game. "To go out there and play center field and be able to get another look in that position was fun. I enjoyed it, and I was able to make a good play. It was a fun game, and we needed a win. Fortunately it worked out for us." More >
Bullpen is in shambles: Baker was hoping not to use many relievers in the four-game series against the Braves. As it turned out, the relievers pitched a combined 10 1/3 innings and allowed 11 runs (six earned). On Sunday, Mark Melancon and Oliver Pérez were not available. Melancon had pitched three straight games, and Perez was out because of back tightness and is listed as day to day.
"We didn't have any more pitching after that and our pitching was dragging as it was," Baker said. "With all the rain delays, the travel and the heat -- you don't want to make any excuses -- but this has been a tough road trip. We just have to regroup in Baltimore and put this behind us."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Gonzalez, who struck out eight over 5 2/3 innings, also singled twice for his first career multi-hit game.
Kemp began the bottom of the eighth with the first homer he's hit at Turner Field since joining the Braves. After the rain concluded, Gordon Beckham grounded into a double play that plated Jeff Francoeur with the tying run. The Braves would have likely turned to Freddie Freeman as a pinch-hitter under the circumstances, but the first baseman was not available after receiving an injection in his middle finger on his right hand after Saturday's game. He said he hopes he can play in Monday's series opener in Arizona.
"It's actually been hurting since Spring Training," said Freeman. "I've been grinding it out. I got a shot during the All-Star break, as well. It just kind of finally wore off. It's pretty painful every single day, but it got to the point yesterday where I swung a bat before the game in the cage and it kind of blew up on me again." More >
Nationals:Stephen Strasburg, after three consecutive rough outings, gets the call in Monday's opener in Baltimore at 7:05 p.m. ET as he searches for his 16th win. He has allowed 19 runs over his last 11 2/3 innings. In that span, his ERA has ballooned from 2.63 on Aug. 6 to 3.59.
Braves: Atlanta will travel to Arizona to begin a four-game series on Monday at 9:40 p.m. ET. Mike Foltynewicz will start for the Braves, who are expected to have Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte in the lineup. Swanson, Inciarte and Aaron Blair were acquired from the D-backs in exchange for Shelby Miller in December.
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Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.