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Monday, September 5, 2011

Nats blow 4-run lead, fall to Braves 6-5 in 10

Monday, September 5, 2011

ATLANTA ? Washington relievers Sean Burnett and Doug Slaten couldn't follow through on Jordan Zimmermann's strong start.

Burnett gave up Martin Prado's tying grand slam in the seventh inning and Slaten allowed the winning run on Brian McCann's single in the 10th as the Atlanta Braves rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Nationals 6-5 on Thursday night.

Slaten (0-1) walked Prado to open the extra inning, and Prado advanced to second on Nate McLouth's sacrifice bunt. Slaten intentionally walked Chipper Jones — who homered in the third inning — so that he could face McCann, who delivered the winning hit.

Slaten said the left-handed hitting McCann was able to turn on an inside fastball.

"It was maybe a little up I guess, but it was in on his hands," Slaten said. "He hit it."

Braves players rushed from the dugout to join McCann, almost beating him to first base.

Craig Kimbrel (1-1), who blew his third save in the Braves' 7-3 loss to the Nationals in 11 innings on Wednesday night, struck out the side in the 10th to earn the win.

Prado's grand slam off Burnett tied the game at 5-5, spoiling a strong start by Zimmermann. He set a career high with 11 strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings.

"I felt great all night," Zimmermann said. "Everything was working. Just left one pitch up to Chipper. Other than that everything was working."

Zimmermann left the game with a 5-1 lead after giving up a one-out walk to Freddie Freeman and a single to Alex Gonzalez in the seventh. Burnett loaded the bases by walking pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad before giving up Prado's second career slam on a 3-2 pitch.

"I kept making good pitches, he just kept fighting them off," Burnett said. "I finally made a mistake and he put the barrel of the bat on it and hit it out of the park.

"I made one mistake tonight and it cost us four runs," Burnett added. "It makes me sick to think that I blew a four-run lead."

Washington manager Jim Riggleman said plate umpire Jim Joyce allowed Prado to prolong his at-bat by not calling strikes on some check swings.

"That irritates the heck out of me, those check swings," he said. "(Burnett) has got to end up throwing a pitch to Prado with the bases loaded when maybe that wouldn't have been the case."

Prado said he was expecting a good pitch to hit because he knew Burnett would not want to force in a run with a walk.

"They were winning by four. They didn't want to lose with walks," Prado said. "I got the pitch right down the middle and hit it solid."

Danny Espinosa hit a two-run homer for Washington in the second inning, and Ivan Rodriguez added a sixth-inning homer on a night when balls were flying out of the park.

The two homers matched the total the Braves' Derek Lowe had allowed in his first eight starts this season. Lowe gave up five hits and five runs in six innings.

Zimmermann gave up soft singles to Prado and McLouth to open the game. With two outs, the right-hander walked Dan Uggla to load the bases before striking out Eric Hinske. It was the third strikeout looking of the inning.

Laynce Nix led off the fourth with a double and scored on Adam LaRoche's single. LaRoche scored later in the inning on a grounder by Rodriguez for a 4-1 lead.

The Braves were without right fielder Jason Heyward for the second straight day. Heyward had a cortisone shot in his sore right shoulder Thursday after an MRI exam showed only inflammation in his rotator cuff.

Gonzalez hit a one-out single off the left-field wall in the ninth inning but was thrown out at second base by Washington left fielder Michael Morse.

NOTES: Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell returns Friday from a two-week suspension without pay. The suspension was imposed by Major League Baseball for his inappropriate comments and gestures to fans before an April 23 game in San Francisco. ... Zimmermann set his previous high of nine strikeouts at Florida on Aug. 31, 2010. ... Prado's grand slam was the Braves' first of the season.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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