Bullpen falters, Nationals fall 9-8 to Braves

Despite everything that went wrong for them on Sunday against the Braves, the Nationals entered the eighth inning with a one-run lead, a chance to take two out of three from Atlanta and jump-start their second half with an important victory.

Instead, they lost for the second time in three games when their bullpen, stretched virtually to its limit, cracked one too many times.

Every reliever the Nationals used on Sunday gave up at least one run, and despite the offense’s ability to keep taking leads from the Braves, they couldn’t finish things off. Tyler Clippard gave up a home run to Nate McLouth in the eighth inning, and Ryan Mattheus allowed a hit and two walks in the ninth inning, giving up a walk-off single to Freddie Freeman as the Braves beat the Nationals 9-8.

The Nationals had to get seven innings from their bullpen after Tom Gorzelanny twisted his right ankle at a play at home plate in the top of the third. He was unable to stay in the game after making a few warmup pitches in the top of the third.

Washington didn’t get a quality start all weekend, and the bullpen had to pitch 14 1/3 innings in the Braves series. And in the end, the Nationals missed an opportunity to make up a game on the Braves. They’re back to a game below .500 for the season, and they trail Atlanta by nine games in the wild card standings.