ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman's single to right field in the bottom of the ninth was the rookie's first career walk-off hit as the Braves rallied for a thrilling 9-8 win over the Nationals at Turner Field.
Atlanta continues to trail the Phillies in the NL East Division by 3 1/2 games, but is five games in front of Arizona in the NL Wild Card race. Major League Standings
The stage had been set for Freeman in the eighth, when Nate McLouth's two-out solo homer to right knotted the game at 8. It was the outfielder's first homer since May 14 against Philadelphia.
After closer Craig Kimbrel stranded runners on the corners in the top of the ninth, Martin Prado reached first on a two-out fielder's choice in the bottom half of the frame. That's when he opted to steal second off Nationals pitcher Ryan Mattheus with All-Star catcher Brian McCann at the plate.
As expected, Mattheus then promptly issued the intentional walk to McCann.
That's when Freeman, as Prado thought he could, got the job done.
The Braves got to that point after a see-saw affair with the Nationals through the first six innings. After Atlanta struck first with a two-run first inning, All-Star pitcher Jair Jurrjens surrendered six runs over the third and fourth frames to spot Washington a 6-2 advantage.
Jurrjens departed an inning later, marking the first time this season that he failed to pitch into the sixth. The six runs he surrendered were a season high, and the no-decision represented just the third time this year that he didn't record a quality start.
Jurrjens said his mechanics were off, but refused to credit that to the unusual schedule he faced thanks to his first career All-Star Game appearance.
But fortunately for him, the Braves' offense quickly took him off the hook. Atlanta struck with a five-run fifth, highlighted by McCann's three-run homer off Sean Burnett that temporarily tied the score at 6. McCann had been 2-for-13 (.154) off Burnett in his career.
The Braves then took the lead on Alex Gonzalez's run-scoring groundout, but Nationals rookie Danny Espinosa quickly helped Washington reclaim the advantage an inning later with a two-run shot off George Sherrill.
The homer, Espinosa's 17th of the season, looked like it would hold up until McLouth's solo shot. After the Nationals reclaimed the lead, Washington relievers retired each of the next eight hitters they faced before the tying homer.
Freeman took care of the rest from there. He said after the game that he couldn't remember ever having a walk-off hit, at least certainly not in the professional ranks.
Braves' post-game quotes
• Atlanta's upcoming four-game series at Colorado represents the club's final trip out West this season. Atlanta will play just two more series this year in another time zone after that (Cubs, Aug. 22-25, and Cardinals, Sept. 9-11).
• Reliever Cory Gearrin, Rhea County H.S. grad, is glad that the Braves' ugly 14-1 loss to the Phillies last Sunday is long gone. The rookie saw his first action since that day in Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Nationals at Turner Field, striking out all three batters he faced in a flawless seventh.
• After going 1-for-3 Sunday, Dan Uggla is riding a season-high nine-game hitting streak. The second baseman entered Sunday's game batting .345 (10-for-28) with three homers, four doubles, six RBIs and six walks during that span.
• The Braves' pitching staff ranked second in the Majors in ERA (3.11) and opponents' batting average (.233) prior to Sunday's action. The staff had already posted 10 shutouts this year (tied for fourth in the Majors) after recording just nine all of last season.