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WASHINGTON -- As Tyler Flowers (33rd round, 2005 Draft, Chipola College) rounded the bases after watching his go-ahead three-run home run off Matt Albers (23rd round, 2001 Draft, William P. Clements HS in Texas) escape the right-field wall, the players in the Braves' bullpen yelled and jumped around, some coming out of the dugout to greet Flowers with high-fives. The Nationals' players, meanwhile, sat stone-faced as fans voiced their displeasure at Nationals Park.
Flowers' homer powered the Braves to an 11-10 win over the Nationals on Monday night. It was Flowers' fourth home run of the season, and the Braves' fifth blast of the night.
"A lot of his hits have been ones that put us ahead or tie the game, like that one tonight," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the catcher. "That's a big strong man right there going the other way."
The Nationals entered the eighth inning with a 9-6 advantage, but for the third straight day, Washington's bullpen surrendered the lead. The Braves scored twice in the eighth, including Matt Adams' (23rd round, 2009 Draft, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania) second home run of the day, before taking command in the ninth. Without closer Koda Glover (eighth round, 2015 Draft, Oklahoma State University), who's on the disabled list with lower back stiffness, Albers was tasked with completing the four-out save, but he took the Nationals' 11th blown save this season.
"There's no answers right now," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I would say score more runs, but we scored more runs. ... We need some help. We need some help, big-time. We've been knowing that all along."
The game was meant to be a duel between two pitchers who entered on a string of quality starts, but it turned into a slugfest with a combined eight home runs and 28 hits. Stephen Strasburg (No. 1 overall pick, 2009 Draft, San Diego State University) gave up six runs and three home runs in five innings while striking out 10, while Mike Foltynewicz (No. 19 overall pick, 2010 Draft, Minooka HS in Illinois) surrendered eight runs in 3 1/3 frames before the Nationals took advantage of defensive miscues in the fourth to take a three-run lead. They didn't score again until the ninth.
In the final frame after Flowers' homer, Michael Taylor (sixth round, 2006 Draft, Westminster Academy in Florida) scored to draw the Nats within a run in the ninth, but Jim Johnson (fifth round, 2001 Draft, Union-Endicott in Florida) secured his 13th save of the season for Atlanta to snap its three-game losing streak and hand Washington its fourth straight loss.
"I kind of thought early on that the bullpen was going to fit into that game somewhere for both teams the way both the starters began the game," Snitker said. "Our guys, they just kept coming. Nobody was panicking or anything like that. They were just taking it an at-bat at time."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The final homer: Flowers' blast was the shortest of the eight in the game, but it was the most important. Albers walked two in the ninth and struck out one before Flowers, who had been 0-for-4, came to the plate. He worked a 2-0 count before smacking a 95.1-mph four-seam fastball, per Statcast™, over the right-field wall. Flowers noticed Albers was throwing harder than he usually does, and the catcher took advantage.
"I think just a couple of walks hurt me today," Albers said. "Flowers hit a decent pitch, it was away, he just hit it out to right field."
The catcher's 349-foot shot had an exit velocity of 98.1 mph and a launch angle of 35 degrees, per Statcast™. Flowers, who's hitting .343 this season, has notched all four of his home runs since May 12, and he has 10 extra-base hits on the year.
Finishing the job: Johnson gave up a two-out single to Trea Turner (No. 13 overall pick, 2014 Draft, North Carolina State University) in the bottom of the ninth, which scored Taylor. But with Bryce Harper (No. 1 overall pick, 2010 Draft, College of Southern Nevada), who hit a tying homer to spark a four-run fourth, at the plate and the potential tying run on first, Johnson forced the superstar to line out to center field. The Nationals have 17 comeback victories, but Johnson is 13-for-17 in save opportunities this season.
"It was awesome, especially for the bullpen's standpoint," Foltynewicz said. "They put up six runs for me, and I didn't do my job. They kept pouring it on after that, so it's awesome to see the offense do that. The bullpen was huge tonight to keep that deficit to a minimum, and the offense did what they needed to do. It was a great win."
"We have a lot of young guys in the bullpen right now. I think everybody in here, we're all pulling for them, we all believe in them. I just hope that they worry about what goes on in the clubhouse and not what really what's said outside the clubhouse. I've been around long enough to know that the way it works is they build you up to bring you down. It's easy to kick a guy when he's down. I'm just going to try to be a great teammate to them and support them through thick and thin." -- Strasburg, on the bullpen
"We're going to kick balls here and there, just as every team will, not get the jobs done in those situations. But the makeup of the team and the chemistry of the group, I think we're a far better team than where we're at." -- Flowers, on the Braves' 28-35 record
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Strasburg is the fourth pitcher in the last 100 years to allow three home runs and record 10 strikeouts in five or fewer innings.
Braves: After perhaps his best start of the season, R.A. Dickey will take the mound against the Nationals on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. The right-hander allowed a season-low one run and struck out a season-high eight batters against the Phillies on Thursday.
Nationals:Joe Ross will make the start, coming off one of the best performances of his career, when the Nationals host the Braves on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. Ross struck out a career-high 12 batters in 7 1/3 innings to beat the Orioles in their last meeting.
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