Then they staged a promising comeback that simply set them up for more disappointment and frustration against the Nationals.
As the Braves were still feeding off the energy Andrelton Simmons created with a game-tying home run in the seventh, Michael Morse hit Chad Durbin’s first pitch of the eighth inning over the right-center-field wall to give the Nationals all they needed to secure a 5-4 win on Friday night.
Morse’s solo shot was the first home run Durbin had allowed since May 7.
In the 18 innings he had completed since then, the veteran reliever had allowed nine hits and just two runs.
Durbin’s inability to keep Morse from drilling his opposite-field home run led the Braves to suffer their fifth loss in six games against the first-place Nationals this year.
Now sitting 4 ½ games back in the National League East standings, the Braves will have to deal with the challenges created by Nationals starters Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez in the final two games of this series.
Staring at a 4-0 deficit, the Braves finally got things going against Nationals starter Ross Detwiler in the seventh inning.
Jack Wilson’s bunt single put Freddie Freeman in position to score Atlanta’s first run of the game, coming on Martin Prado’s pinch-hit single.
Michael Bourn followed with a sacrifice fly before Simmons further endeared himself to the home crowd with a game-tying, two-run home run.
Simmons’ third home run capped a thrilling four-run seventh inning and erased the damage he and Wilson had created with a pair of errors in a costly two-run third inning that doomed Braves starter Randall Delgado.
When the Braves opted to give Wilson his first start since May 30, they expected the sure-handed infielder could capably spell slumping second baseman Dan Uggla. But it was his inability to cleanly field Adam LaRoche’s two-out grounder in the third inning that sparked an ugly chain of events.
Morse followed with a sharp grounder that eluded Chipper Jones’ glove and landed in shallow left field. Simmons quickly secured the baseball and made the unwise decision to attempt to catch LaRoche straying too far off second base. His errant throw moved runners to second and third, setting the stage for Ian Desmond to follow with a two-out, two-run single.
After needing 50 pitches to complete the first two innings, Delgado was positioned to complete a perfect 14-pitch third inning before he was doomed by his defense.
Delgado allowed eight hits and four runs -- two earned -- while totaling 90 pitches in four innings. The young hurler had completed a career-low 1 1/3 innings last Saturday in Boston.
While the defensive woes tarnished this outing, Delgado made the fatal mistake of allowing a two-out RBI single in the second inning to Detwiler, who had just three hits in his previous 59 career at-bats. He also was damaged by Jesus Flores’ one-out solo home run in the fourth inning.