After thrilling opener, Braves and Nats set to play two

6:38 AM, Jul 21, 2012   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - Eyeing a possible takeover of first place in the NL East this weekend, the Braves posted their largest come-from-behind win since 1987 last night and are knocking on the door of the first-place Nationals.

Atlanta came back from a 9-0 deficit and posted a thrilling 11-10 victory in 11 innings to open this big four-game series. Now the teams will play a day/night doubleheader at Nationals Park.

Friday night marked the largest blown lead in the history of the Nationals/Expos franchise and it all came with Washington ace Stephen Strasburg on the hill.

Paul Janish singled in Dan Uggla with the go-ahead run in the 11th inning.

"When you are down 9-0, you just have to kind of stay focused and grind out your at-bats," Uggla said. "We took advantage of a lot of opportunities tonight and, next thing you know, we're back in it."

Michael Bourn tripled in two runs in the top of the ninth to give the Braves a 10-9 edge, but Craig Kimbrel surrendered a homer to Danny Espinosa in the bottom half to force extra frames.

"I feel bad," Nats manager Davey Johnson said. "The guys played hard. It was arguably the worst game I've ever managed in my life. We lost a nine-run lead it was my part at the end to handle the pitching."

Lost in the shuffle was a milestone reached by Chipper Jones. He passed George Brett for most all-time RBI by a third baseman with 1,598.

The result pulled Atlanta within 2 1/2 games of the division-leading Nationals, and this afternoon the Braves will lean on Ben Sheets. He'll make his second start of the year. The veteran right-hander allowed two hits in six shutout frames of a 2-0 win against the Mets this past Sunday. Sheets, who made his first MLB start since 2010, is 3-3 with a 3.58 ERA in nine games against Washington.

Edwin Jackson has beaten 25 of 30 MLB teams, but never the Braves. He'll get a shot this afternoon to also bounce back from a loss at Miami on Monday. In that contest, the right-hander allowed six hits and four runs over five-plus innings. He doesn't have a decision in four games (2 starts) when facing the Braves.

John Lannan, the Nationals' opening day starter in 2009 and 2010, will finally make his 2012 major league debut tonight. The left-hander went 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts last season. So far this season, he's posted a 6-9 record with a 4.89 ERA in 18 starts at Triple-A Syracuse.

Lannan wasn't in the starting rotation to begin this season, as Ross Detwiler became Washington's fifth starter. Upset at being demoted to the minors just before the start of the season, Lannan announced he was seeking a trade, saying at the time. "I believe that I belong in a big-league rotation. I am a proven major-league starting pitcher, with a track record of success."

In his career, Lannan has posted a 38-51 record with a 4.00 ERA in 128 starts, all with Washington. He's 8-5 with a 3.25 ERA in 15 contests versus Atlanta.

Randall Delgado hopes to stop a four-decision losing streak when he gets the ball for Atlanta in the nightcap. The righty hasn't won in a five-start stretch with the Nationals scoring a total of nine runs in those games he's started. Most recently, Delgado was tagged with a 5-1 loss to the Cubs on July 4. This will be his second career start against the Nationals.

Washington leads the season series, 6-3.

The Sports Network

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