Major Leagues: Braves 9, Nationals 8
WASHINGTON ó Brooks Conrad made quite a first impression, keeping the Atlanta Braves’ winning streak and pursuit of the NL East lead in tact.
Conrad hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning and the Braves beat the Washington Nationals 9-8 on Friday night for their season-high fifth straight victory.
“(Conrad) couldn’t have had a better debut with this organization, that’s for sure,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “He was a good asset and won us the game tonight, probably.”
Yunel Escobar drew a leadoff walk from Jesus Colome (1-1) and moved to second on Matt Diaz’s sacrifice. Colome walked Casey Kotchman on a 3-2 pitch with two outs before Conrad, a 29-year-old rookie whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Gwinnett to replace the injured Kelly Johnson, crushed a 1-0 fastball over the right-field fence for his first career homer.
Conrad, who had a six-game call-up with Oakland last year, got the milestone ball from teammate Jeff Francoeur, who retrieved it from the Washington bullpen.
“Huge thrill, obviously the best experience I’ve had in the big leagues,” Conrad said. “It was only 12 days last year. It just feels awesome to come up in a situation like that and contribute right away.”
Boone Logan (1-0) pitched 1 2-3 perfect innings of relief. Rafael Soriano worked the ninth for his eighth save in nine tries, despite yielding Cristian Guzman’s two-out, two-run double.
Chipper Jones, Diaz and Escobar drove in two runs apiece for the Braves, who remained two games behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East.
“Had we not come in on our longest winning streak of the season, we might have been primed for a letdown,” Jones said. “But I think everybody is starting to feel like we got a good streak going and we don’t want it to end ó (we) certainly don’t want it to end here.”
Adam Dunn hit his 21st homer, the 299th of his career, for the Nationals, who lost their fourth straight. Guzman had three RBIs.
“We can’t sit here and say we’re better than we are,” Dunn said. “We need to find a way to win these games.”
Nationals pitchers issued six walks from the seventh inning on, a failure that wasn’t lost on manager Manny Acta.
“It is disturbing because obviously those last nine outs have been very hard to get for us,” Acta said. “When you come in, you don’t help yourself by walking guys.”
Josh Willingham’s RBI single in the first gave Washington a 1-0 lead, but the Braves tied it in the second on a run-scoring single by Diaz.
The Nationals went up 3-1 in the second.
The Braves tied in it in the third on Jones’ RBI double and Escobar’s single to left.