Error in 9th sends Braves over Nationals

ATLANTA (AP) — Kris Medlen has no idea what’s going

on.

The Atlanta Braves aren’t

complaining.

Medlen, who started the season as a

little-known reliever, had a career-high 13 strikeouts and the Braves

pulled out a 2-1 victory over the first-place Washington Nationals when

Andrelton Simmons scored on a throwing error in the ninth inning Friday

night.

While Medlen wasn’t around for the decision —

he was lifted for a pinch hitter after going seven — the Braves kept

alive a remarkable streak. They won for the 20th time in a row when

Medlen is the starter, already a franchise record and the longest streak

in the big leagues since the New York Yankees won 20 consecutive starts

by Roger Clemens in 2001.

“If we keep on winning

when I’m on the mound, then keep running me out there,” said Medlen,

whose streak dates to 2010 (he missed most of last season after elbow

surgery). “It’s just worked out that way. I don’t know what it is. Those

guys go to battle for me because they know I will go to battle for

them.”

Simmons reached on an infield single against

Sean Burnett (1-2) and scurried to third when Michael Bourn lined a

single that dropped in right field. Pinch-hitter Tyler Pastornicky hit a

one-hop grounder to shortstop Ian Desmond, who had a shot at getting

Simmons but threw wildly to the plate, the ball skipping all the way to

the backstop while the rookie slid across with the winning

run.

“I was just trying to get down the line in case

they tried to turn two,” Pastornicky said. “I didn’t hear anything until

I hit the bag. Then I turned around and saw everyone running toward

me.”

He was pummeled by his teammates during the

celebration.

He didn’t mind a

bit.

“Awesome,” Pastornicky said. “That’s the best

adrenaline rush you can get. That’s what we’re all playing

for.”

The Nationals are one of the NL’s top fielding

teams, but Desmond threw it low and to the left of the plate with the

game on the line. Catcher Kurt Suzuki made a half-hearted stab at it,

knowing he had no chance to make the tag even if he scooped it

up.

“He hit a kind of slow chopper and I’ve got a

prayer with Simmons at third. It was probably a one in 10 chance and I

didn’t get him,” Desmond said. “It was the story of the night: they put

the ball in play.”

Not so for the Nationals, who

fanned 17 times — their most strikeouts in a game this season. Craig

Kimbrel (2-1) earned the win by whiffing the side in the top of the

ninth on 10 pitches — all strikes — though Medlen did most of the

heavy lifting. He allowed only a homer to Bryce Harper as the Braves

snapped a three-game losing streak.

Medlen eclipsed

his previous best for strikeouts set just 11 days earlier when he fanned

12 in a complete-game win over Colorado. In his last two starts at

Turner Field, he has 25 strikeouts in 16 innings and joked that the

hard-throwing Kimbrel — who has a staggering 101 strikeouts in 54 1-3

innings — was trying to follow his lead when he blew away the Nationals

during his lone inning on the mound.

“I’m sure when

he saw all the strikeouts I had, he was getting a little jealous,”

Medlen said with a grin.

Washington’s Ross Detwiler

wasn’t as dominant as Medlen, but the left-hander was just as effective.

He went six innings, allowing seven hits and one run while striking out

five.

Like Medlen, Detwiler didn’t factor in the

decision, missing a chance to become Washington’s fourth 10-win pitcher

along with Gio Gonzalez (19-7), Stephen Strasburg (15-6) and Jordan

Zimmermann (10-8).

“Det pitched a hell of a ball

game. You’ve got to tip your hat to Medlen,” said Washington manager

Davey Johnson, whose team still leads the Braves by a comfortable 7 1/2

games in the NL East and is closing in on clinching at least a wild-card

spot in the playoffs. “We just had a little error at the end.

Otherwise, it looked good. I don’t worry about those mistakes. Our

defense has been outstanding. It’s just tough to lose that

way.”

The Braves broke the scoreless duel in the

fourth. Freddie Freeman led off with a double, Dan Uggla walked and

David Ross grounded into a forceout, moving Freeman to third. The runner

was nearly caught off the bag when Desmond, realizing he would have a

tough time doubling up Ross at first, wheeled and threw back to

third.

Freeman dove back just ahead of the tag, then

scored when Simmons went deep enough to right for a sacrifice

fly.

The 1-0 lead held up the sixth. Harper drove

Medlen’s first pitch into the seats in left-center, an opposite-field

shot for the rookie’s 19th homer of the season.

“I

made a mistake and we paid for it,” Medlen said. “But we came out on top

in the end.”

NOTES:
Simmons was

back in the lineup after missing the final two games of the Milwaukee

series with a sprained right ankle. He took some grounders before

batting practice and declared himself ready to play. … Facing the

left-handed Detwiler, the Braves rested Bourn and C Brian McCann. But

Bourn came on as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, stayed in the game and

played a big role in the win. … The Nationals failed to become the

first Washington team since the AL champion Senators in 1933 to win 90

games in a season. They’ll get another chance Saturday when Edwin

Jackson (9-10) faces Atlanta’s Tommy Hanson (12-8).