Dan Uggla's 13th-inning miscue allowed Danny Espinosa to score the winning run as the Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves 5-4 early Tuesday morning at Nationals Park.
The winning rally started with an Ian Desmond infield single. Espinosa followed and failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt, reaching on the fielder's choice. The Washington second baseman went to third after the left side of the Braves infield charged Kurt Suzuki's slow-rolling infield hit, leaving no one on the bag. Then, pinch-hitter Chad Tracy hit a slow roller to second that got stuck in Uggla's glove, allowing Espinosa to cross with the winning run.
Tracy's hit was initially called an error and was not officially changed to an infield hit until after the game had ended.
The win moved Washington six games clear of Atlanta in the National League East, the Nats' largest division lead of the season.
The Braves broke through in the first inning against Jordan Zimmermann when Jason Heyward singled home Martin Prado. But the Nationals came roaring back in the bottom half of the frame, putting a four-spot up on the board against Tim Hudson. The big bats came through in Davey Johnson's order, with Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, and Ian Desmond all knocking in runs.
Jayson Werth led off the inning with a double and was immediately brought home by Harper, who placed a single into shallow left field. Harper scored on a LaRoche ground out to right side of the infield and Desmond capped the rally with his first hit since returning from the disabled list. Desmond did not make any rehab appearances, and was thrown right back into the lineup for the weekend series against the Mets. He went 0-for-11 but that slump ended in a loud way in the first on Monday when he took a Hudson slider over the left-field fence for the 4-1 lead.
Zimmermann was not his sharpest, and he could not hold the three-run cushion. Heyward's big night continued in the top of the 5th when he turned on one and sent a Zimmermann offering over the right field wall. Heyward dug it out and sent a laser into the bleachers.
The Nationals mounted a walk-off threat in the bottom of the ninth, but Werth hit one to the warning track with the bases loaded to end the inning and send it to extras. On two separate occasions, it looked like the Nats might end with balls sent deep to the wall. Both LaRoche (in the 10th) and Werth (in the 11th) sent hard hit balls to the top of the wall, but Heyward brought them down to keep the game tied up.
The Nats went through their entire bullpen during the crucial divisional game, with Craig Stammen coming on in the top of the 12th as the final man out of the pen.
The game ended shortly before 12:30 a.m. The start of the game was delayed 56 minutes by rain.