J. Upton hits late tying homer, then wins it in 10th
Pena continues tater trend vs. Nats in wild game that includes replay
ATLANTA -- Given all of the wackiness that had transpired over the previous 3 hours and 48 minutes, it was only fitting that the latest spirited battled waged between the Braves and Nationals conclude with what was the softest of the six hits Justin Upton has recorded in the past two days.
Upton provided life with a game-tying eighth-inning home run and then produced a soft opposite-field single that scored the speedy Jordan Schafer and enabled the Braves to exhale at the conclusion of Friday night's eventful 7-6 win over the Nationals in 10 innings.
"Sometimes, that's the way you have to win ballgames," Upton said. "It's not going to be pretty every single night. Mistakes happen. We just can't get down when things don't go our way. We have to continue to fight like we did tonight."
After gaining an early four-run advantage courtesy of Ramiro Pena's most recent home run against the Nationals, the Braves saw Dan Uggla's throwing error doom Julio Teheran and enable Washington to wage a spirited comeback that provided a brief eighth-inning lead.
Upton erased Atlanta's one-run deficit when he drilled a one-out home run off Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning. Along with serving as his third homer in a span of six at-bats, the solo shot ultimately enabled him to cap his second straight three-hit performance in celebratory fashion.
When Chris Johnson capped his own three-hit night with a two-out single in the 10th inning, he was immediately replaced with the speedy Schafer, who drew a flurry of pickoff attempts from left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins before taking off on the 2-2 pitch that Upton looped in front of Bryce Harper in right field.
Schafer concluded his mad dash around the bases in uncontested fashion as Harper never gained control of the ball after it bounced in the outfield grass.
"I've seen Schafer run before," Upton said. "So I was hoping he would. I was hoping he would [score] once that ball got down and got away from [Harper] a little bit. That's why we put his speed at first base."
"I would have liked to see if Harper picks that ball up clean, see what kind of play at the plate [it would have been]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But it was a strange enough night without trying to get that one also."
The evening seemed to be rather routine when the Braves produced a four-run second inning against Tanner Roark. Pena highlighted the frame with a three-run shot that stands as one of the three home runs he has hit in 22 at-bats against the Nationals since the start of last year. The backup infielder has homered just one other time in the other 83 at-bats he has compiled during this span.
But sanity started to fade in the fifth inning, when Uggla fielded Adam LaRoche's two-out grounder and then made a lackadaisical throw that Freddie Freeman could not scoop out of the dirt. This inning-extending miscue allowed Ryan Zimmerman to follow with a game-tying three-run homer off Teheran.
Like in his first two starts, Teheran struggled to gain command of his slider. Only this time he wasn't able to escape without paying the price. The 10 hits he surrendered in six innings matched a career high. But just two of the five runs that scored while he was on the mound were earned.
"I tried to pick [Uggla] up," Teheran said. "But it was a mistake that I made, and it cost me three runs."
Freeman's two-out double in the bottom of the fifth put him in position to score when Johnson concluded a 10-pitch at-bat with a go-ahead single. But Atlanta's lead proved to be short-lived as Kevin Frandsen added to Teheran's frustrations with a game-tying single in the sixth inning.
"You don't like losing, ever," Frandsen said. "But the way we battled, the resiliency of this team in the first two weeks is unbelievable. ... Our guys battled, the guys on the bench did their job. We came out on the short end, but the fact is, we battled, we came back. We are going to be in plenty of those against these guys all year."
The strangest stretch of this game began in the seventh inning, when heavy-footed LaRoche attempted to score from second base on Jordan Walden's wild pitch that Evan Gattis corralled near the Nationals' dugout. Gattis' quick throw allowed Walden to tag LaRoche in front of the plate. The umpires reviewed the play to make sure there wasn't a violation of the home-plate collision rule, and the call was confirmed, LaRoche was out and the inning came to an end.
One inning later, the Nationals gained another brief lead courtesy of the consecutive two-out singles Nate McLouth and Denard Span recorded against David Carpenter. McLouth's liner drilled second-base umpire Angel Hernandez in the left ankle and knocked him to the ground. Span followed with a go-ahead single to right field and then got violently knocked to the ground when he rounded first and collided with the barrel-chested Uggla, who was ruled to have committed interference, and Span was awarded second.
Upton then stole the show during the final three innings and started to show signs that he might be in the early stages of one of his patented hot streaks. With six hits, including three home runs, in his past seven at-bats, he has raised his batting average from .200 to .324.
"The ball he hit to straightaway center to tie the game was about as pretty a swing you ever want to see taken," Gonzalez said. "We saw where last April he carried us. He's starting to get hot."