Chipper Jones has seen a lot in his 19 seasons with Atlanta. Even he hasn’t seen anything like what the Braves did Friday night.
Atlanta was down 9-0 after five innings with Washington Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the mound. The Braves came back to take the lead in the top of the ninth, after the Nationals tied it Atlanta pulled out a wild 11-10 win on Paul Janish’s run-scoring bloop single in the 11th.
”I don’t even know where to start,” said Jones, who drove in two runs with a single in the Braves’ four-run eighth inning. ”I still can’t believe it. I mean, 9-0. That’s never happened to me since I’ve been here.”
In the top of the 11th, Dan Uggla led off with a single against Tom Gorzelanny (2-2), advanced to second on Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing error and then went to third on a passed ball before scoring on Janish’s bloop that just barely fell in past shortstop Ian Desmond’s outstretched glove.
”A really crazy game, but it counts, right?” Janish said. ”All that matters is that we end up with one more than them, so it worked out.”
It was the Braves’ largest comeback since 1987 and pulled them within 2 1/2 games of the Nationals in the National League East. The teams will play three more games this weekend, including a doubleheader Saturday.
”It’s a big series, and there’s no way we were just going to go down without a fight,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The nine-run lead was the largest ever given up by the Nationals franchise, including the games played as the Montreal Expos.
”Arguably the worst game I’ve ever managed in my life,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. ”I’ve never lost a nine-run lead when it was my part of the game to handle the pitching and it’ll be hard for me to sleep. I had a worse night than the guys did.”
Atlanta scored four runs in both the sixth and eighth innings. Tyler Clippard came on in the ninth hoping to close the game for the Nationals, but walked leadoff batter Dan Uggla and hit Jarnish, who was squaring to bunt. After pinch-hitter David Ross struck out, Michael Bourn tripled to right field to score both runners.
”The old saying, when you’re down that much, if you get the closer up the bullpen you feel like you won a moral victory,” Gonzalez said. ”We got him in the game, we kept scoring runs, and it was like, `Hell, we’ve got a chance to win this thing.”’
Craig Kimbrel blew his second save in 30 chances in the bottom of the ninth when Danny Espinosa hit a solo homer into the visitors’ bullpen in left-center field to tie the game at 10.
Eric O’Flaherty (2-0) pitched the 10th to earn the win, and Chad Durbin was perfect in the 11th for his first save.
Michael Morse and Zimmerman each hit two-out, three-run homers off Braves starter Tommy Hanson, who gave up a season-high eight runs on eight hits.
Morse’s fifth homer of the year – a bomb that nearly reached the Red Porch restaurant in the centerfield concourse – came in the first. Zimmerman added his 12th in the fourth, hitting a 3-2 pitch into the left-field seats. The Nationals scored three more in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk to Washington starter Stephen Strasburg and Steve Lombardozzi’s two-run single.
Lombardozzi had three hits in the game, extending his hitting streak to 13 games.
Pitching on his 24th birthday, Strasburg held the Braves scoreless through the fifth, when rain started to fall, but seemed to tire in the sixth, giving up four runs, starting with a two-run homer by Brian McCann scored the Braves’ first runs with a two-run homer in the sixth.
Pinch-hitter Eric Hinske narrowly missed another when he hit a double off the top of the wall, and Martin Prado capped the four-run inning with a two-run double off reliever Michael Gonzalez.
”Either way, even if we didn’t win the game, it would be one of the best games I played in my career,” Prado said.
NOTES: Nationals OF Jayson Werth, on the DL with a broken wrist, was scheduled for a rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac on Friday, but Washington manager Davey Johnson said it would be pushed back to Saturday because Werth was feeling some stiffness and a forecast of rain. … SS Ian Desmond, who has been dealing with a strained oblique muscle, was in the starting lineup for the first time since July 14. … Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said 3B Chipper Jones will sit the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. … Freeman doubled in the second to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, and C Brian McCann doubled in the fourth for a 10-game streak.