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Braves rally in 7th but fall to Nationals 5-4


Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa sends the ball past Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones on a double play hit into by Matt Diaz during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Friday, June 29, 2012, in Atlanta. Washington won 5-4. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ATLANTA (AP) — Andrelton Simmons gave Atlanta a chance.

Michael Morse had a quick answer for Washington.

Morse had four hits, including the go-ahead homer in the eighth inning after Washington had blown a four-run lead, and the Nationals beat the Braves 5-4 on Friday night.

The Braves trailed 4-0 through six innings before rallying with four runs in the seventh, including Simmons’ two-run homer off Ross Detwiler, to tie the game.

Morse’s leadoff homer to right field off Chad Durbin in the eighth gave the lead back to Washington.

“He’s got a lot of juice going that way,” Durbin said. “We come back, score four, it would have been nice to keep it even.”

The Nationals, who swept a three-game series in Atlanta on May 25-27, are 5-1 against the Braves this season. NL East-leading Washington is 4½ games ahead of Atlanta. The Nationals began the night 3½ games ahead of the Mets.

“The good thing is we battled back and made a hell of a game,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Simmons said the loss hurt because the Braves fought back.

“You want the games like this because you want emotional games,” Simmons said. “You want to battle and win so after you win you feel good about yourself, you feel like you accomplished something. But after battling that much and losing, it hurts.”

Jesus Flores homered and Ian Desmond had a two-run single for Washington.

Morse was under instructions to let manager Davey Johnson know if he had more tightness in his right hamstring, a problem that emerged this week in Colorado. Morse let Johnson know in the seventh inning “it was tightening up a little bit.”

Morse’s big home-run swing in the eighth allowed him to protect the hamstring as he casually jogged around the bases.

“I told him his swing kept him from running,” Johnson said with a smile.

The homer was only the third for Morse but it was his second in two days. Morse, who hit 31 homers in his breakout season with Washington in 2011, hit a three-run homer at Colorado on Thursday.

“He’s been looking better and better every day,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to have him back. … We’ll probably move him back into the cleanup spot.”

Sean Burnett (1-1) gave up one hit in 1 1-3 scoreless innings. Tyler Clippard gave up a leadoff double to Freddie Freeman in the ninth before recovering for his 13th save.

Clippard walked Martin Prado with one out, putting runners on first and second. Michael Bourn flied out to center and Clippard ended the game on Simmons’ flyball to right.

Durbin (3-1) gave up two hits and a run while recording two outs in the eighth. Jonny Venters struck out Bryce Harper with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Detwiler allowed only two hits through six scoreless innings, but he couldn’t hold the 4-0 lead in the seventh.

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