ATLANTA (AP) — Andrelton Simmons gave Atlanta a chance.
Michael Morse had a quick answer for Washington.
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.
“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.
Detwiler gave up four runs, five hits and a walk in 6 2-3 innings.
Randall Delgado lasted only four innings, giving up seven hits and four runs, two earned.
“Delgado didn’t pitch particularly well,” Gonzalez said.
Delgado was hurt by third-inning errors by second baseman Jack Wilson and Simmons, the rookie shortstop, which led to two unearned runs.
Wilson, starting at second base for the first time this season, dropped a grounder by Adam LaRoche for the first error with two outs. Morse singled past Chipper Jones at third. Simmons retrieved the ball in shallow left and threw past Wilson at second base for another error, allowing the runners to advance. Desmond drove in LaRoche and Morse with a single to left.
“I was too aggressive. Just a little immature of me,” Simmons said. “I’ve got to be better than that.”
NOTES: The temperature for the first pitch was 101 degrees. … Braves 2B Dan Uggla, hitting only .156 (12 for 77) in June, received his first day off this season. … Gonzalez plans to rest Jones on Saturday and C Brian McCann on Sunday. … Prado did not start. Gonzalez says Prado has been playing with a sore right hamstring. … Nationals RHP Drew Storen, recovering from a right elbow injury, moved closer to an injury rehabilitation assignment by throwing to hitters before the regular batting practice. Johnson said Storen could return before the All-Star break. … Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg will try for his 10th win when he faces Braves LHP Mike Minor in the second game of the three-game series on Saturday.