Nationals Blow 9-Run Lead, Lose To Braves In Extras

July 20, 2012; Washington, D.C. USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper (34) during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

The Nationals took a 9-0 lead on the Braves, but Atlanta came all the way back to win 11-10 in extra innings.

With the National League's best record and a 3.5 game lead in the NL East, the Washington Nationals enjoyed the first 90 games of their season. It appeared, at least for the first five innings, they would enjoy their 91st game as well.

With a 9-0 lead and ace Stephen Strasburg on the mound, Washington went into the top of the sixth inning looking like a lock to improve to 54-37. Instead, it all unraveled with the Braves coming all the way back.

Strasburg allowed two quick runs in the top of the sixth inning before leaving the game with one out and two men on base. Mike Gonzalez came in and struck out the first batter he faced, but Martin Prado doubled home two more to bring the Braves within five.

Washington was still looking good heading into the eighth inning up 9-4, but the Braves rallied to score four runs, all with two outs. Still, Washington was just three outs away from escaping with a 9-8 win. Their hopes didn't last long as Dan Uggla reached via a walk before Paul Janish was hit by a pitch. Michael Bourn then tripled off of Tyler Clippar, giving the Braves a 10-9 lead.

To their credit, the Nationals tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on a Danny Espinosa home run, but all it did was prolong the inevitable. Janish singled in the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th inning and this time, Espinosa couldn't tie it as he grounded out to end the game and complete the collapse.

In the big picture, one game in a 162-game season doesn't mean much, but this one stings. Washington missed an opportunity to extend their NL East lead and, with three games in the series remaining, Atlanta could now leave DC with the division lead.

For more on the Braves, visit Talking Chop and SB Nation Atlanta. For National coverage, visit Federal Baseball and SB Nation DC.

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