Struggling Braves slugger B.J. Upton, center, is mobbed by his teammates after delivering the game-winning hit in the 10th inning on Saturday to beat the Nationals, 2-1.
ATLANTA -- After Tim Hudson and Gio Gonzalez dueled to a standoff, the game came down to the bullpens. Thanks to B.J. Upton’s clutch hit, it was Atlanta celebrating a victory.
Upton, mired in a season-long slump, dropped in a single to right field off Henry Rodriguez with one out in the 10th inning to give the Braves a 2-1 victory over Washington and push their lead back to 5 1/2 games in the National League East.
Rodriguez walked two of the first three batters he faced and Upton, a free-agent bust so far this season, made him pay, going the other way on a 1-and-0 pitch and coming through despite breaking his bat.
“I got a decent pitch and I was just praying it would fall in,” Upton said.
When pinch-runner Jordan Schafer crossed the plate, the hero was mobbed in the infield.
“It was a little crazy, but a lot of fun,” Upton said.
The single was the seventh walk-off hit of the center-fielder’s career, but his first with the Braves after signing a five-year, $75 million deal. He came into the game batting just .145, but had two hits.
“Hopefully this is just a small look at things to come for him the rest of the season,” said Hudson, who didn’t allow an earned run. “Everyone is happy for him.”
“It’s still early and I’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Upton, who had been benched for four of the previous five games. “Hopefully this is a step in the right direction.”
Before Upton came through, pitching dominated. Each team finished with just five hits.
Hudson, who had given up 10 runs in 19 2/3 innings in his previous four starts, allowed three hits and an unearned run in 7 1/3 innings, striking out four and walking one. The Braves starter threw 108 pitches, 69 of them strikes, and lowered his ERA from 5.37 to a more respectable 4.80.
“I made some adjustments and they were evident in the results,” Hudson said.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, looked nothing like the pitcher who had given up 12 runs in 10 innings while losing twice to Atlanta in April. The left-hander, who came in 3-3 with a 3.90 ERA, struck out seven in seven innings while allowing an earned run, three hits and a walk. Of his 105 pitches, 72 were strikes.
“I knew it was going to be a battle,” Gonzalez said. “It’s always fun to pitch in a game like this.”
It appeared the Nationals might go ahead in the ninth, but Braves closer Craig Kimbrel worked out of a big-time jam.
Ryan Zimmerman led off with a broken-bat single, his second hit of the game, and Adam LaRoche followed with a double. But Kimbrel worked out of the jam to keep the score tied.
Ian Desmond struck out looking and Roger Bernadina bounced into a forceout, with Braves third baseman Chris Johnson cutting down Zimmerman at the plate. Then Kimbrel got Danny Espinosa to fly out to left field.
Gonzalez walked Dan Uggla to open the bottom of the third after retiring the first six Braves, and it cost him. Upton followed with a bouncing single up the middle and Andrelton Simmons brought home Uggla with a groundout.
The Nationals tied it with an unearned run in the fourth against Hudson, who had retired the first eight batters he faced before Gonzalez singled with two outs in the third. Steve Lombardozzi reached on an error by first baseman Freddie Freeman to open the fourth and scored on Ian Desmond’s two-out single.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was ejected by home plate umpire Larry Vanover during the inning, arguing that a 2-2 pitch to Zimmerman had caught the outside corner. It was Gonzalez’s first ejection of the season.
“It was a big win for us,” Hudson said. “It’s something you look back on in September.
NOTES: OF Bryce Harper was placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 26 because of bursitis in his left knee. He will be eligible to return on June 11. Harper first hurt the knee on May 13 running into the wall at Dodger Stadium. … RHP Stephen Strasburg underwent an MRI in Washington that confirmed a slight strain of his right oblique. He had to leave Friday’s game after two innings. … RHP Erik Davis was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to give the Nationals an extra arm in the bullpen. … As a salute to the Negro Leagues on heritage weekend, the Braves and Nationals wore throwback uniforms of the Atlanta Black Crackers and the Homestead Grays, respectively.