Being the Braves, they managed not to get any more from a hugely promising inning. Evan Gattis struck out. Chris Johnson grounded out. One inning earlier, a Harang bunt had become a deflating double play.
Not that the Nats were seizing every moment. Bryce Harper had done as Bryce Harper often does -- keep both teams in the game. He'd singled twice, but he'd also struck out looking with a man at third and been doubled off first base on a liner gloved by B.J. Upton.
From the seventh through the 10th -- you had to know a game that started at 10:51 would lapse into extra innings -- only one runner advanced into scoring position, that coming in the ninth when the deadline acquisition Emilio Bonifacio stole second after a two-out single. The Nats chose to walk Ramiro Pena, who was hitting .217, to get to B.J. Upton, who was hitting even less and who'd struck out three times. This time Upton put the ball in play, but not so resoundingly as to drive home the game-winner. He grounded to short.
Anthony Rendon and Ol' Rochy led off the 11th with singles to right, whereupon Ian Desmond nearly put the Nationals ahead. He lined a a David Carpenter pitch to left, and only Justin Upton's deft recovery turned what appeared to be an RBI double into a saving out. (All three Braves outfielders made nice catches this long night.)
Then James Russell, the get-out-the-lefty left-hander who arrived in tandem with Bonifacio, was summoned to face Harper. Credit where it's due: The often-overzealous Harper drew a five-pitch walk, loading the bases with one out. That was all for Russell, who was replaced by Anthony Varvaro. Wilson Ramos slapped Varvaro's first pitch into center field to put the Nats ahead 2-1 with the bases still full, and then Kevin Frandsen sliced a double beyond Heyward's reach to score two more.
Thus was the Nats' division lead restored to 4 1/2 games, which was a big deal. Had this excruciating game gone the other way, they'd have reported for work Sunday facing the real possibility of being swept here for the second time this season. Sunday's Nats starter will be Gio Gonzalez, and the Braves are undefeated in the past seven games started by Gonzalez dating to September 2012. The best the Braves can do now is end the weekend 3 1/2 games back, which beats losing ground but wasn't quite what they had in mind.
From myajc.com: Are the Braves chasing the Nats, or vice versa?