WASHINGTON (AP)—Wil Nieves wasn’t supposed to bunt, of course.
Indeed, with a 1-2 count, the Washington Nationals tried to signal to Nieves that he shouldn’t try to sacrifice over the two runners on base with no outs in the 12th inning against the Atlanta Braves. But Nieves didn’t see the sign, and bunted a ball right back to the pitcher’s mound. A sure out, maybe even two, right?
Except reliever Manny Acosta let the ball go through his legs for an error, loading the bases. Acosta then walked in the tying run, and left for Buddy Carlyle, who gave up Felipe Lopez’s RBI single that delivered Washington’s 3-2 victory over the Braves on Wednesday, dropping Atlanta to 0-9 in one-run games this season.
“Destiny, baby! It was a mix-up with the signs,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “He bunted the ball real bad, too. But the pitcher couldn’t field it.”
Said Nieves: “It was my fault. But it worked.”
That, right there, is some indication of how well things are going for Washington—winners of three consecutive games, and five of their last six—at the moment, and how poorly things are going for Atlanta—losers of four consecutive games and six of eight.
“It’s not very much fun,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
His club is the first since the 2000 Houston Astros to lose its first nine one-run games.
“It’s happened for a whole month. We haven’t been doing the little things to win games,” Atlanta’s Mark Teixeira said. “Fundamentals haven’t been very good, so everyone’s got to look each other in the mirror and figure out a way to get these wins.”
The Nationals, meanwhile, have their longest winning streak since opening the season 3-0. They fell behind 2-1 in the 12th on Mark Kotsay’s RBI single off Saul Rivera (3-1), who nonetheless earned the win with two innings of relief.
The loss went to Acosta (0-1), who came in to start the 10th. He got into trouble right away, loading the bases with one out by issuing two walks and allowing a single. But Acosta got Lopez to ground into a 1-2-3 double play.
That stuck with Lopez until he got another opportunity two innings later.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen twice in one game,” said Lopez, who went 2-for-6 with two RBIs and is batting .320 since moving back into the starting lineup. “I was lucky to get another chance to do it—a chance to make it right.”
He got that chance because Austin Kearns walked, Willie Harris singled off first baseman Martin Prado’s glove, and Nieves, well, got bailed out by Acosta. After pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard’s walk made it 2-2, Carlyle came in and gave up Lopez’s game-ender.
A win is a win, no matter how it’s achieved, yet Acta was pleased to see Lopez come through after what happened in the 10th.
“If we would have lost the game, I know how the kid would have felt. He got another chance and redeemed himself,” Acta said. “Now he doesn’t have to think about the one he didn’t get done.”
Instead, Atlanta did, saddled with its first four-game losing streak since July 25-28.
“I don’t have an excuse for it,” Acosta said.
Starters Shawn Hill of Washington and Jair Jurrjens of Atlanta had nearly identical lines. Hill made his third start of the season and lasted more than five innings for the first time, giving up one run and four hits over a career high-tying eight innings. Jurrjens allowed one run and only two hits in his seven innings.
“It’s something to build on,” Hill said. “I’m not all the way there to where I want to be, but today was better.”
Braves RHP Jeff Bennett, who faced one batter in the ninth, was visited by Cox and a trainer after his nose began bleeding while he was on the mound. Cox said Bennett was OK. … CF Kotsay made a sliding catch of Johnny Estrada’s sinking liner leading off the eighth. … Nationals reliever Chad Cordero is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks with a tear in a muscle below his pitching shoulder. … The Nationals had lost eight extra-inning games in a row, dating to last season.