ATLANTA -- The rivalry between the Nationals and Braves is stronger than ever, and Friday was proof of how competitive both teams are as Atlanta edged Washington, 7-6, in 10 innings at Turner Field.
With the score tied at 6 in the bottom of the 10th inning, Justin Upton swung at a pitch from left-hander Jerry Blevins and blooped a single to right field. Pinch-runner Jordan Schafer, who was running on the pitch, scored all the way from first base after the ball went by outfielder Bryce Harper, who bobbled it. The Nationals are now 7-3 to start the season.
"The guys continued to fight back. It's a really good sign," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "It didn't come out our way tonight, but they got back in it with the lead. We'll take our chances with that every day."
Said Upton, who also hit a game-tying home run in the eighth off Tyler Clippard, "It was up and down, the game swung both ways. We came out on top. It's always good when we can grind out a win. Sometimes, that's the way you have to win ballgames. 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."
The Braves took advantage of starter Tanner Roark, who was pitching on seven days' rest. He lasted 4 2/3 innings and allowed five runs on five hits. His worst inning occurred in the second, when Atlanta scored four runs. Ramiro Pena highlighted the scoring with a three-run home run, having now hit three of his four Braves homers against the Nats.
Roark said the extra days of rest had nothing to do with his disappointing outing. The cameras panned on Roark sitting at the end of the dugout, and he looked devastated after he was taken out of the game.
"I felt great out there. I didn't have the command on the pitches that I wanted," Roark said. "It's not what I usually do. We battled. I had great defense behind me and great offense at the plate, too."
The Nationals loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning against right-hander Julio Teheran, when Ian Desmond singled to left field, scoring Adam LaRoche.
An inning later, Washington had a runner on first with two outs when LaRoche hit a routine ground ball to second baseman Dan Uggla, who made a throwing error to prolong the inning. Ryan Zimmerman was the next hitter, and he clubbed a three-run homer over the left-field wall to make it even at 4.
But Atlanta would retake the lead off Roark in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Roark couldn't get that third out. After Freddie Freeman doubled, Roark was taken out of the game in favor of Aaron Barrett. Chris Johnson was the next hitter, and he battled Barrett for 10 pitches before he singled to right field to score Freeman.
It was an inning where Zimmerman was tested at third base and passed with flying colors. After a walk to Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton broke his bat on a grounder to Zimmerman, who avoided the flying bat to start a sensational 5-4-3 double play. Later, after Justin Upton walked to put runners on first and second, Uggla hit a ground ball to Zimmerman, who dove and overhanded the ball to second baseman Anthony Rendon for the force out.
Zimmerman has been battling serious shoulder problems, and it looked like he was in pain when he made the throw. It turned out he was OK.
"A lot of crazy things happened." said Zimmerman. "We have to find a way to turn the momentum over to our side."
The Nationals added another run against Teheran before he left the game after six innings. After Jose Lobaton doubled down the left-field line in the sixth, pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen singled to left field, scoring Lobaton and tying the score at 5.
With the score still tied in the seventh, the Nationals had runners on first and second base, when right-hander Jordan Walden threw a wild pitch with Harper at the plate. It took catcher Evan Gattis a while to locate the ball as LaRoche attempted to score from second base. However, Gattis located the ball quickly enough to throw LaRoche out at the plate, with Walden covering.
The umpires reviewed the play and checked for a violation of Rule 7.13 regarding collisions at home plate. After review, the call was confirmed. There was no violation, the runner was out and the inning came to an end.
Williams, who initially came out to challenge before the umpires made the decision to review, didn't have a problem with LaRoche taking a chance to score.
"It took a sliding play by Gattis and the perfect throw to the pitcher. We are looking to score a run there," Williams said. "The only question I have with it is, can the pitcher actually block the plate? We talk about the catcher all the time. So the question [the umpires] asked me when I appealed was, 'Are you appealing blocking the plate, or are you going to appeal safe or out at the plate? I didn't see him block the plate. I guess anybody can block the plate. I don't think we ever talked about it."
The Nationals then took the lead in the top of the eighth inning off right-hander David Carpenter. With runners on first and second and two outs, Denard Span singled to center field, scoring Harper. Span was awarded second base for colliding with Uggla, who was charged with interference.
Then Upton clubbed his solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the score at 6. It was the second home run Clippard allowed this year. He now has a 5.40 ERA to start the season.
Although the Nationals lost, they didn't go down without a fight.
"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. ... 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."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.