WASHINGTON — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons allowed Denard Span’s grounder to bounce through his legs for a game-ending, two-run error, lifting the Washington Nationals over the Atlanta Braves 6-5 Tuesday in the makeup of a series opener postponed by a shooting rampage a day earlier at the nearby Navy Yard.
Pinch-hitter Chad Tracy had an RBI grounder against Craig Kimbrell in the three-run ninth as Washington kept Atlanta’s magic number at four for clinching the NL East for the first time since the Braves’ streak of 11 consecutive division titles from 1995-05. A sweep of the day-night doubleheader would have sealed the division for Atlanta.
Washington closed within 4 1/2 games of Cincinnati for the NL’s second wild-card berth with 12 games remaining.
Atlanta trailed 3-0 but took a 4-3 lead in the eighth on Evan Gattis’ two-run homer off Tyler Clippard on an 0-2 pitch, which stopped an 0-for-18 skid. The Braves added a run in the ninth when Elliot Johnson singled, advanced on a throwing error by left fielder Bryce Harper, stole third and came around as shortstop Ian Desmond allowed Freddie Freeman’s four-hop grounder to bounce off the heel of his glove for his 18th error this season.
Kimbrel (3-3), who leads the major leagues with 47 saves, had converted 37 in a row but blew a save chance for just the fourth time this season.
Adam LaRoche walked on a full count, Wilson Ramos reached on an infield single and Anthony Rendon walked on a 3-2 pitch. After Tracy’s grounder, Atlanta elected to pitch to Span with first base open, and he hit a three-hopper over the mound that rolled past Simmons into center field.
Ian Krol (2-1) faced two batters in the ninth, giving Washington its first win in seven home games against Atlanta this year.
Before the game, both teams stood in front of their dugouts, heads bowed, and a color guard was stationed behind home plate during a minute of silence to pay tribute to the people killed Monday and those affected by the shootings.
Span’s second-inning single extended his hitting streak to 27 games, matching Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer for the longest in the major leagues this season.
Washington took a 3-0 lead in the first against Mike Minor on Jayson Werth’s RBI double, Harper’s run-scoring groundout and LaRoche’s RBI single.
Freddie Freeman’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly off Dan Haren made him the first Atlanta player with 100 RBIs in a season since Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur in 2007, and pinch-hitter Dan Uggla singled in a run in the seventh.
NOTES: Minor retired his final 13 batters. ... Notes: RHP Stephen Strasburg’s bullpen session Monday went “great,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. Strasburg is set to start Thursday against Miami after missing Friday’s turn due forearm tightness in his pitching arm. ... Adm. James Winnefeld , the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greeted players in the Nationals clubhouse before the game, handing out blue and gold Navy caps to wear during warmups.