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Pena heroics lead Braves past Nats in extras

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A bunt and a bomb.

That is the short version of how to describe the late-innings heroics Friday night of Ramiro Pena, who was the catalyst of a 6-4 Atlanta Braves win over the Washington Nationals in 10 innings.

Pena put down a bunt single as a pinch-hitter during a two-run rally in the top of the ninth to tie the game at four, and then in his next at-bat, slammed a two-run homer to right field against reliever Craig Stammen.

Pena, who played in just three games with the New York Yankees last year, went in to play third in the ninth after the Braves came back from a 4-0 deficit after two innings.

"Pena came off the bench with the bunt single and the two-run homer to win the game," said Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez, who was all smiles while standing behind his desk in the Braves' clubhouse. "What a pickup with that young man."

Justin Upton and Chris Johnson each had three hits for the Braves, whose bullpen pitched four scoreless innings and still has not allowed an inherited runner to score this season. Atlanta (9-1) has now won seven in a row while the Nationals fell to 7-3 in the first game of the weekend divisional series.

"When you get guys on base good things happen," said Johnson, who also homered. "It was a big win for us. It is a good feeling."

The winning pitcher was Eric O'Flaherty (2-0) while Stammen (2-1) was saddled with the loss. Craig Kimbrel picked up his fifth save for the Braves with a scoreless 10th.

Washington starter Ross Detwiler, a left-hander who allowed just four hits, went seven innings while Atlanta starter Julio Teheran, who spent most of last season at Triple-A Gwinnett, allowed four earned runs in six innings.

"Our bullpen has been taxed the past couple games," said Detwiler, who wanted to go back out for the eighth inning. "I wish I could have gone a little deeper. It is not really my call. I wanted to go deeper than I did."

Drew Storen gave up a leadoff single by Atlanta's Johnson in the ninth and pinch-hitter Pena reached on a bunt single down the third-base line. Pinch-hitter Blake DeWitt put down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners to bring up leadoff hitter Andrelton Simmons, who struck out looking at a curve.

Heyward then walked to load the bases to bring up Justin Upton, who hit a ground single to Ryan Zimmerman at third as Johnson scored. Pena came around to score when Zimmerman threw the ball to second for a possible force but the ball went into right field for a throwing error as the Braves tied the game at 4. Evan Gattis then hit a grounder to Zimmerman at third, who threw to first for the final out of the inning.

"A lot of nice things happened," Gonzalez said of the Atlanta comeback. "These are two good teams. There are no easy outs. It was a nice win."

Denard Span and Ian Desmond each had two hits for the Nationals, who had won their first six games at home.

Washington's Tyler Clippard took over in the eighth with the score 4-1 and allowed a walk to Jason Heyward, single by Justin Upton and walk to rookie slugger Gattis to load the bases with two outs.

With Storen quickly warming in the Washington bullpen, Clippard stayed in and walked B.J. Upton on a full-count pitch to force in Heyward and make the score 4-2.

The Nationals then brought in reliever Storen to face Dan Uggla, who flied out to Span on the warning track in center for the final out of the eighth. But trouble awaited the Washington bullpen in the ninth and 10th.

NOTES: The Braves placed RHP Cristhian Martinez on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain Thursday. ... Washington third baseman Zimmerman, batting cleanup, appeared in his 1000th game with the Nationals. "It is pretty amazing," Zimmerman said before the game of his time in the nation's capital. "It has been fun. I wouldn't change a thing or a second" of the tenure. ... Reliever Luis Ayala joined the Braves on Friday after he was traded to Atlanta earlier this week by the Orioles for a minor league pitcher. Ayala spent 2003-08 in the Montreal/Washington system and saw action Friday.
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