ATLANTA -- While there is not much intrigue surrounding the National League East race, it appears the Braves are determined to spend the remainder of this season marking their supremacy in an authoritative manner.
Justin Upton capped an exciting evening by drilling Ian Krol's offspeed pitch just over the left-center-field wall to give the Braves a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Nationals on Friday night at Turner Field.
This was Upton's third career walk-off home run and second this year. He also ended an April 6 win over the Cubs with a home run against Carlos Marmol.
With their 18th win in their past 20 games, the Braves increased their lead over the second-place Nationals to 15 1/2 games -- matching the season-high total. Atlanta has created this imbalance in the NL East while winning six straight games against Washington and 11 of the first 14 games played in this season series.
Alex Wood was in position to win his third consecutive decision before Luis Avilan suddenly lost control of the game after retiring the first two batters he faced in the eighth inning. After Ryan Zimmerman doubled to the left-center-field gap, Avilan hit Bryce Harper with a first-pitch, 91-mph fastball.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez reacted to the resulting tense situation by immediately pulling Avilan in favor of Luis Ayala, who allowed Jayson Werth to exact revenge with a game-tying single.
Avilan's errant pitch understandably drew an irate response from the Nationals' bench. The Braves' Julio Teheran hit Harper with a first-pitch fastball after the outfielder had homered in his previous at-bat on Aug. 6. Harper had also been hit earlier in the night by Wood with a 78-mph curveball that did not seem to have any ill intent.
Wood exited to a well-deserved standing ovation after retiring Wilson Ramos in the seventh inning. The 22-year-old rookie left-hander recorded a career-high nine strikeouts and scattered five hits while allowing just one run during his 97-pitch effort.
Just six starts into his career, Wood has solidified his spot in Atlanta's rotation. He has allowed just two earned runs in the 18 1/3 innings he has completed in his past three starts.
The only run surrendered by Wood came after he opened the fourth by hitting Harper with the slow curveball. Werth followed with a single, putting Harper in position to score as Ian Desmond grounded into a double play.
Each of the first three runs scored during this game were tallied at the tail end of attempted double-play turns.
Jason Heyward fueled the Braves' offense yet again with his fifth consecutive multihit performance. Heyward singled to begin the bottom of the first inning and then attempted to steal second base on a 3-2 pitch to Upton. Not realizing a ball had been called, Wilson Ramos made an errant throw to second base that allowed Heyward to advance to third and score on Freddie Freeman's double-play groundout.
Nationals starter Taylor Jordan's misfortunes extended to the third when he got Upton to ground into what would have been an inning-ending double play. But second baseman Anthony Rendon's errant throw to first allowed Paul Janish to score from second base.
---- Source: MLB.com