Braves Fall To Nationals In 15 Innings, 8-7

Former Brave Adam LaRoche Hits Winning Homer

Sunday, August 18, 2013
Jason Heyward hit two home runs for Atlanta.
Jason Heyward hit two home runs for Atlanta.
- photo by Tim Evearitt

ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward provided the Braves hope with a game-tying ninth-inning home run. But his dramatic two-run shot was not enough to prevent Kris Medlen from suffering a loss in a marathon affair that he never expected would include him.

After providing two scoreless innings of relief, Medlen allowed Adam LaRoche to open the 15th inning with the solo home run that provided the Nationals with an 8-7 win over the Braves on Saturday night at Turner Field.

Hamstrung by the fact that Mike Minor exited the shortest start of his career with two outs in the second inning, the Braves sent their last available reliever, Luis Avilan, to begin the 11th inning. After Avilan produced two scoreless innings, manager Fredi Gonzalez was forced to call upon Medlen, who was scheduled to start on Tuesday against the Mets.

Medlen kept the Nationals scoreless through his first two innings. But his decisive seven-pitch at-bat against LaRoche concluded when the former Braves first baseman hit a hanging curveball into the right-field seats.

The Braves had won 18 of their past 20 games and 11 out of the 14 games they've previously played in the season series against the second-place Nationals, who sit 14 1/2 games back in the National League East. But the fact Atlanta lost for the fifth time when scoring at least five runs this year served as just one of this night's many oddities.

Heyward got the Braves rolling in the first inning with his second leadoff home run of the week, and then capped his fifth career two-homer game by sending Rafael Soriano's 1-0 fastball over the right-center-field wall with two outs in the ninth. The dramatic two-out shot allowed the Braves to overcome the early struggles of Minor, who allowed four runs and needed 67 pitches to record just five outs.

By the time the five-hour-plus game concluded, the fact that Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg had been ejected in the second inning was a distant memory. In retaliation of Bryce Harper getting hit twice on Friday night, Strasburg followed Heyward's first-inning home run by hitting Justin Upton in the rear with his next pitch -- a 97-mph fastball.

While it was obvious Strasburg intentionally hit Upton, there was reason to wonder why he threw three consecutive wild pitches, including two straight fastballs that went behind Andrelton Simmons in the second inning. He opened the frame with a four-pitch walk to Jordan Schafer, who scored after advancing one base on each of the wild pitches.

Strasburg's sudden loss of command or flurry of ill-intended pitches came with the Nationals leading, 4-1, and having the comfort of knowing Minor had already made an early exit. Regardless, home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson had no choice but to eject Strasburg and Nationals manager Davey Johnson. Warnings had been issued to both clubs after Upton was hit.

Nationals reliever Tanner Roark allowed one hit over four scoreless innings and produced the first hit of his career -- a two-out fifth-inning double off Anthony Varvaro. The Braves began cutting into a 6-2 deficit on Brian McCann's two-run homer in the sixth off Fernando Abad and Freddie Freeman's eighth-inning solo shot off Drew Storen.

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