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It takes 13 innings, but Braves takeover NL East

BJ Upton comes to the dugout
BJ Upton comes to the dugout
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

It may have taken the Atlanta Braves (38-35) longer than they expected, but in the end, the Bravos topped the Washington Nationals(37-35) 6-4 in 13 innings on Friday, springboarding Atlanta into first place in the NL East.

Leading 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, all the Braves needed was another Craig Kimbrel save. With two outs and Nate McLouth on base, Kimbrel gave up a 400-foot 2-run homer to Anthony Rendon, his 11th of the season. This was the second time this month that Kimbrel had blown a save.

While the blown save deprived starting Braves pitcher Mike Minor of a victory, in which he pitched 7 innings and struck out 11 batters, it allowed two Atlanta relief pitchers, Juan Jaime and Ryan Buchter, to make their major league debuts. Both men combined for three strikeouts and no hits.

In the 13th inning, catcher Evan Gattis singled to drive in BJ Upton for a one-run lead. A few batters later shortstop Andrelton Simmons grounded into a fielder’s choice, allowing Freddie Freeman to score and give the Braves some extra insurance. Pitcher Jordan Walden then retired all three batters he faced giving him his second save of the season.

The game may have lasted more than four and a half hours, but Freeman summed it up nicely.

"It doesn't matter how long it takes -- just as long as we win," Freeman said. "We've played some long games the past week, so it's definitely taxing our bullpen. But a win is a win."

Freeman was referring to the other two 13-inning games Atlanta has played in the past week. Both of them, however were loses for the Bravos. Fortunately, almost every time Atlanta plays Washington, they come away with a win. So far in the eight games played between the two this season, Atlanta has won seven of them. If you go back to last season as well, the Braves have beaten that Nationals on 20 of 27 occasions.

"Somehow, we always put good at-bats against the Nationals," said Simmons after the game. "I don't know why, but we get locked in a little bit. Hopefully, we keep doing it whenever we play division teams."

With a half-game lead in the NL East, Atlanta once again plays the Nationals for their third of four straight games. First pitch is scheduled for tonight at 7:15 p.m. ET as Julio Teheran (6-4) faces Doug Fister (5-2).

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