ATLANTA - On Friday night, the Nationals sat through a rain delay and battled nearly all the way back from a seven-run deficit, but still dropped a game to Atlanta.
Despite the loss, the comeback was significant, players said prior to yesterday's contest. And they meant it.
But moral victories only go so far. And so when the Nats headed to extra innings with the Braves last night, another close loss wasn't going to boost clubhouse morale. There would be no more productive defeats.
Another loss to Atlanta would have dropped the Nats' lead in the National League East to 2 1/2 games, and would have left them on the verge of a sweep.
They fought all that off, however, with their three-run 11th inning leading to a 4-1 Nats win.
The high-fives in the Nats dugout after Wilson Ramos' go-ahead RBI single could probably be heard from where the Braves sat on the first base side. The yelling after Kevin Frandsen's two-run double reverberated throughout Turner Field.
It was a big win given the time of the year, the opponent and the standings. But considering what another tough defeat would have felt like - another tough defeat to this same Braves team - the win felt that much larger.
"It's huge. It builds a lot of morale," Tanner Roark said. "It's a big game. Brings a lot of confidence and momentum going into tomorrow."
The circumstances around last night's game were bizarre. A nearly four-hour delay left Aaron Harang throwing the game's first pitch at 10:51 p.m., well after one could have expected the originally scheduled 7 p.m. game to end.
Saturday night quickly became Sunday morning, and then extra innings hit. The Nats and Braves kept on playing, kept on battling. Not that it seemed to bother most of the players involved.
"It was very cool, actually," Bryce Harper said. "It was like 'Midnight Madness,' I guess you could say. It was pretty cool to be able to do that. Of course you don't want to play until 3 o'clock. That's pretty rough. But thankfully we have an 8:05 ESPN game tomorrow night. So hopefully we can get some rest tonight."
"It's not hard," said Ramos. "No. If you want to play, you play 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 innings. I love this game, and I like to play. When you like to play, you can play a lot of innings."
Even at 2 a.m.?
"Yeah, and it's my birthday, too," Ramos responded. "So it's a good time, a good gift. This year, I get my best gift, my daughter. I'm really happy for that."
On his 27th birthday, Ramos drove in the game-winning run, celebrated with his teammates and left Turner Field with a smile on his face.
The rubber game awaits tonight. But last night's victory guaranteed the Nats will head out of Atlanta with no worse than a 3 1/2 game lead in the NL East. A big win it was, indeed.