Kimbrel, Simmons stumble, Braves lose to Nats 6-5

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Associated Press

Posted on September 17, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 17 at 6:05 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — No clinch Tuesday for the Atlanta Braves.

Needing a doubleheader sweep against the Washington Nationals to finish off the National League East title, the Braves wasted a two-run, ninth-inning lead in an opening 6-5 loss.

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons' error on Denard Span's grounder ended Kimbrel's first blown save since May 7.

In the makeup of a series opener postponed by a shooting rampage a day earlier at the nearby Navy Yard, the Braves lost for the eighth time in 12 games. The magic number remained at four for clinching the NL East for the first time since the Braves' streak of 11 consecutive division titles from 1995-05. A sweep of the day-night doubleheader would have sealed the division.

"Any time at any position, if you don't get your job done, you want to go out there as fast as you can and do it again," Kimbrel said. "Hopefully, we score some runs and are winning in the ninth inning in this next game, and I can go in and shut it down."

Washington closed within 4½ games of Cincinnati for the NL's second wild-card berth with 12 games remaining.

Atlanta trailed 3-0 in the first but took a 4-3 lead in the eighth on Evan Gattis' two-run homer off Tyler Clippard on an 0-2 pitch, which stopped an 0-for-18 skid. The Braves added a run in the ninth when Elliot Johnson singled, advanced on a throwing error by left fielder Bryce Harper, stole third and came around as Ian Desmond allowed Freddie Freeman's four-hop grounder to shortstop to bounce off the heel of his glove for his 18th error this season.

In the ninth, Adam LaRoche walked on a full count, Wilson Ramos reached on an infield single and Anthony Rendon walked on a 3-2 pitch. After Tracy's grounder, Atlanta elected to pitch to Span with first base open, and he hit a three-hopper over the mound that rolled past Simmons into center field. Span was given an RBI, with the second run scoring on the error.

"If you don't get your job done, you want to go out there as fast as you can and do it again," Kimbrel said. "Hopefully, we score some runs and are winning in the ninth inning in this next game, and I can go in and shut it down."

Simmons began the day with second-highest fielding percentage among NL shortstops.

"I just didn't do my job. I didn't catch the ball," he said "That's all I can tell you. I should have caught the ball, and I didn't."

Kimbrel (3-3), who leads the major leagues with 47 saves, had converted 37 in a row but blew a save chance for just the fourth time this season.

"We've had very little success against their bullpen, so it's nice to score some runs off their closer," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.

Ian Krol (2-1) faced two batters in the ninth, giving Washington its first win in seven home games against Atlanta this year.

"I more or less said coming in here that we had to show these guys we could beat them," Johnson said. "We don't want them thinking that they can just roll over us. So that was huge in that respect."

Before the game, both teams stood in front of their dugouts, heads bowed, and a color guard was stationed behind home plate during a minute of silence to pay tribute to the people killed Monday and those affected by the shootings.

Span's second-inning single extended his hitting streak to 27 games, matching Colorado's Michael Cuddyer for the longest in the major leagues this season.

Washington took a 3-0 lead in the first against Mike Minor on Jayson Werth's RBI double, Harper's run-scoring groundout and LaRoche's RBI single.

After center fielder B.J. Upton's diving catch prevented Washington from increasing its lead in the second, Minor settled in and retired his last 13 hitters.

Freddie Freeman's sixth-inning sacrifice fly off Dan Haren made him the first Atlanta player with 100 RBIs in a season since Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur in 2007. Pinch-hitter Dan Uggla singled in a run in the seventh to make it 3-2.

NOTES: RHP Stephen Strasburg's bullpen session Monday went "great," Johnson said. Strasburg is set to start Thursday against Miami after missing Friday's turn due forearm tightness in his pitching arm. ... Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greeted players in the Nationals clubhouse before the game, handing out blue and gold Navy caps to wear during warmups.

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