Published August 17, 2013
| Sports Network
The Atlanta Braves can't make it easy on themselves all the time and will try to stay hot Saturday in the second portion of a three-game series versus the Washington Nationals at Turner Field.
The Braves needed 10 innings to hand Washington a 3-2 loss in Friday's series opener, as Justin Upton cracked a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 10th. Upton clubbed a solo shot to left-center field for the Braves, winners in three straight and 18 of the last 20 games.
"I didn't think it was going to be out ... but it carried enough," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Upton's game-winning homer.
Upton, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons had two hits apiece for Atlanta.
Scott Downs picked up the win with a scoreless top of the 10th and starter Alex Wood limited the NL East-rival Nationals to a run in 6 1/3 innings with nine K's and no walks.
Atlanta is 15 1/2 games ahead of Washington for the division lead and is closing in on an NL East title, the first since 2005.
The Braves are 5-2 on a nine-game homestand and will turn to Mike Minor in Saturday's tilt with Washington. Minor is 3-0 in his last four starts and has won four of his past five decisions, including Sunday's 9-4 win over Miami in which he scattered four runs across seven innings.
Minor is 6-3 in 13 home starts and 3-2 with a 4.30 earned run average in seven career starts against the Nationals. In 24 overall starts, the left-handed Minor owns a 12-5 record to go along with a 2.87 ERA.
Washington's chances of making a playoff push are dwindling and the club has dropped consecutive games since winning five in a row. The Nationals opened a 10-game road trip in dramatic fashion on Friday, as Ian Krol served up Upton's blast in the 10th to take the loss.
Taylor Jordan's start was wasted and he held the Braves to a pair of unearned runs in six innings, while Jayson Werth provided two hits and an RBI for the Nationals, who are 9 1/2 games off a wild card berth.
"It's not easy losing, that's for sure," Werth said. "It's kind of been the story of the year for us so far. We play just good enough to lose."
Werth has posted three straight multi-hit games and six over his past eight.
Nationals young star Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch twice. Wood drilled the left-handed batter in the fourth inning and Luis Avilan beaned the All-Star in the upper part of his back during the eighth before both dugouts were issued warnings.
"I feel bad for him, especially because I don't want to hit him in that part of the body. It was a bad day for me," Avilan said. "I was thinking, 'I hope he doesn't think I hit him on purpose.' You know the situation. We were leading, 2-1. I don't want to put the (go-ahead) run at first. I feel bad. If I'm going to hit him on purpose, I'm not going to hit him almost in his head because it's dangerous."
Stephen Strasburg draws the start for the Nationals Saturday and he halted a five-start winless (0-3) drought in Sunday's 6-0 win over Philadelphia. The hard-throwing Strasburg struck out 10 batters for his first career shutout and complete game to improve to 6-9 in 23 starts with a 2.83 earned run average.
Strasburg, a right-hander, is only 1-5 in 10 road starts this season and 3-4 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 career starts against the Braves.
The Braves are 11-3 against the Nationals this season, have won the last six matchups between the clubs and recorded a three-game sweep over them last week.