The Nationals held a 1-0 lead three batters into their half of the first inning.
They had a 3-0 lead after a full inning of play, and looked poised to knock Braves starter Mike Minor from the game early and pile on the runs.
The Nats now trail 4-3 midway through the eighth, largely due to Tyler Clippard surrendering a two-run homer to Evan Gattis in the eighth, and largely due to their own inability to produce any kind of add-on offense.
Clippard gave up a one-out walk to Freddie Freeman in the eighth, then left a fastball up and out over the plate to Gattis. The burly left fielder didn’t miss it, smoking the ball into the red seats in center to give the Braves their first lead of the day.
You can blame Clippard for a rare misstep if you’d like, and he’ll certainly blame himself after this game if the score holds. But the Nats certainly didn’t help themselves today by going into shutdown mode offensively.
They’ve had 16 straight hitters go down in order, and don’t have a baserunner since the second inning.
The Braves, meanwhile, chipped away at the Nats’ lead throughout the game, getting a run in the sixth, one in the seventh and now two in the eighth.
And now the Nats will need to have their bats wake up late in order to avoid a crushing loss to their division rivals.
Update: Well that was dramatic.
Trailing 5-3 going to the bottom of the ninth, the Nats scored three runs off Braves’ stud closer Craig Kimbrel, the final two of which came around on a two-run error by shortstop Andrelton Simmons off the bat of Denard Span, and they take a 6-5 win in game one of the doubleheader.
They got the three runs off arguably the best closer in baseball, and they came on two walks, an infield single, an RBI groundout and a two-run error.
The Nats cut their deficit in the wild card chase to 4 1/2 games for now. Back with more in a bit.