Washington Nationals base runner Denard Span (R) steals second base as Atlanta Braves second baseman Elliot Johnson (L) stretches for a wild throw from Braves’ catcher Brian McCann (not pictured) in Game 1 of their day-night doubleheader. (REUTERS: Gary Cameron)
WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Atlanta Braves and almost invincible closer Craig Kimbrel 6-5 in the first game of a day-night doubleheader and keep their thin playoff hopes alive.
With runners on second and third and one out, Denard Span hit a grounder up the middle to score pinch-runner Jeff Kobernus with the tying run. Anthony Rendon came in to score the winning run when the ball got past Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons for an error.
The first run in the ninth for the Nationals came when pinch-hitter Chad Tracy grounded out with the bases loaded to score Adam LaRoche.
The loss ended a streak of 37 straight saves converted by Kimbrel (3-3).
Ian Krol (2-1) got the victory in relief for the Nationals.
Evan Gattis, hitless in his previous 18 at bats, hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning against reliever Tyler Clippard to give the Braves a 4-3 lead. The Braves made it 5-3 in the ninth when Elliott Johnson scored on an error by shortstop by Ian Desmond.
The Nationals (80-70) pulled to within 4 1/2 games of the Reds for the second card wild spot in the National League with their ninth win in 11 games.
Atlanta (89-61) can still clinch the divisional title if it wins the final two games of the series.
The game was a makeup from Monday’s game, postponed after the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, less than one mile east of Nationals Park, left 13 people dead. A moment of silence was held for the victims prior to the game and the Nationals wore special Navy baseball hats during the national anthem.
The Nationals took a 3-0 lead in the first on an RBI double by Jayson Werth, a run-scoring groundout by Bryce Harper and a run-scoring single by LaRoche against Atlanta starter Mike Minor, who battled back to give up the three runs and just three hits in six innings. Minor retired the last 13 batters he faced.
A sacrifice fly by Freeman in the sixth cut the lead to 3-1 and Dan Uggla had a run-scoring single in the seventh to make it 3-2 against Washington reliever Drew Storen.
Washington starter Dan Haren, pitching on his 33rd birthday, allowed just one run and three hits in six innings. Haren appears to have a knack for throwing on emotional days. He pitched five scoreless innings in New York against the Mets on Sept. 11 after he had allowed 16 runs in his three previous starts.
NOTES: Nationals center fielder Denard Span had a single in the second to extend his hitting streak to 27 games, which matched the major league high this season set by Michael Cuddyer of the Rockies. … The starters in the second game Tuesday are RHP Freddy Garcia (1-1, 1.32) for Atlanta and RHP Tanner Roark (6-0, 1.30) for Washington. … Atlanta is now 6-1 this season against Washington at Nationals Park and 12-5 overall. … The Braves are 19-11 in games started by Minor while the Nationals are 10-18 in games started by Haren. … Atlanta 3B Chris Johnson leads the National League in batting average and has 48 multi-hit games this season. … Washington’s Wilson Ramos started for the 24th straight game, a league high among catchers this season in the majors.