Atlanta Braves batter Justin Upton hits a game-winning solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the eighth inning of their National League MLB baseball game in Washington August 5, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Gary Cameron)
WASHINGTON -- Justin Upton led off the eighth inning with a tiebreaking home run, and the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 Monday to extend their winning streak to 11 games.
Atlanta (68-45) won the opener of a three-game series. Washington (54-58) fell a season-high 13 1/2 games back of the Braves in the National League East standings.
Upton's 20th homer of the season went just inside the left field foul pole. It came against Washington reliever Tyler Clippard (6-2), who came into the game with a 0.70 ERA since June 4 and was tied for the league lead in wins among relievers.
It was the third hit of the game for Upton, the No. 2 hitter in the lineup. Freddie Freeman had three hits in the No. 3 hole for Atlanta.
Washington's Anthony Rendon lined a sacrifice fly to left in the sixth to score Ryan Zimmerman, tying the game at 2-2.
Washington starter Stephen Strasburg went seven innings and allowed five hits, two runs and one walk while striking out nine. He was lifted for pinch hitter Jayson Werth with no outs in the seventh after Scott Hairston led off with a double.
The hit by Hairston chased Atlanta starter Mike Minor, who gave up two runs in six-plus innings. But the bullpen of David Carpenter (3-0), Luis Avilan and Jordan Walden (first NL save) got the last nine outs.
Walden ended the game by retiring pinch hitter Chad Tracy on a fly to left with Rendon on third as the potential tying run.
Strasburg failed to hold on a runner in the fifth inning, and it cost the Nationals a run.
Upton singled with two outs and then took off for second as Strasburg was in a set position. Strasburg threw to the plate and Upton stole the base standing up, then scored when Freeman followed with a sharp single to center to make it 2-1.
Strasburg also drew the ire of plate umpire Rob Drake when the pitcher started toward the dugout on what he thought was a called third strike to end the top of the second.
Atlanta tied the game at 1-1 in the third on a single to right by Freeman that scored Jason Heyward.
The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the first on a double by Adam LaRoche that scored Ian Desmond, who drew a one-out walk and took third on a single by Wilson Ramos.
NOTES: The Nationals breathed a sigh of relief that LHP Gio Gonzalez, slated to start Tuesday against the Braves, was not one of the players suspended Monday in the Biogenesis scandal. Gonzalez maintained his innocence during spring training when his name was first connected. In a statement released by the Nationals he said: "I am very pleased that Major League Baseball has cleared my name." Said Washington RHP Tyler Clippard, "I think it is unfortunate he was on the list to begin with." Said manager Davey Johnson: "I believed in him from the get-go." ... Washington 3B Ryan Zimmerman welcomed the suspensions. "It is not fair for other guys to have an advantage like that," he said of using performance-enhancing drugs. ... Washington pitching coach Steve McCatty returned to the team after he was hospitalized a few days last week. He has had high blood pressure in the past, according to published reports. "He is his old irritable self," Johnson said with a grin. ... Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the MLB suspensions: "It's a good thing. It is a positive step going forward." ... Nationals OF Jayson Werth was named the National League player of the month. He hit .367 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in July. ... The Braves are the second team since 1979 to have two winning streaks of at least 10 games in one season.