GAME IN A NUTSHELL: They were all set to play at Turner Field on Friday night. Pitchers warmed up. Players stretched. They sang the national anthem. And then at 7:03 p.m., 7 minutes before scheduled first pitch, they rolled out the tarp in anticipation of heavy rain which arrived a few minutes later. Little did they know then they'd have to wait out a 3-hour, 41-minute delay before the first pitch of this game actually was thrown. And little did they know how late they'd still be here before this game ended.
Tanner Roark and Aaron Harang engaged in a tight pitchers' duel, each right-hander surrendering only one run over seven innings and each wriggling his way out of some tight jams. That left things in the hands of the two bullpens. Newcomer Matt Thornton got through a scoreless eighth, with help from a diving Kevin Frandsen in left field. Drew Storen then pitched out of a ninth-inning jam, sending this game into extra innings at 1:33 a.m.
The Nationals finally broke through in the 11th, with Wilson Ramos delivering the go-ahead, bases-loaded single to center and Kevin Frandsen adding a 2-run double for good measure. Rafael Soriano then closed it out, untucking as the Nats pulled off a marathon victory to retake a 4 1/2-game lead in the NL East at 2:29 a.m.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The Nationals couldn't get anything going against the Braves' top relievers, but once they got deeper into the pen, they finally delivered. Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche led off the 11th with singles against David Carpenter. Fredi Gonzalez then brought in left-hander James Russell to face Bryce Harper, who drew a key walk to load the bases. Next, Gonzalez brought in Anthony Varvaro, and Ramos greeted him by lining his first pitch into center field for the RBI single. Frandsen then put the nail in the coffin with his 2-run double to right, capping an impressive, late-night rally.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Long rain delays. The Braves lineup. A hostile environment. Nothing seems to faze Roark, who was effective as ever tonight. The right-hander did get himself into several jams, but he showed some impressive fortitude in pitching his way out of them, inducing a pair of key double plays. Atlanta did get to him for one run in the sixth on Jason Heyward's broken-bat sac fly to center, but Roark bounced back from that to escape a bases-loaded pickle without surrendering anything more. He wound up with seven innings of 1-run ball on 110 pitches, yet another strong effort from the most-surprising member of the Nationals' rotation.
STREAK WATCH: Denard span kept his streak alive in dramatic fashion, tripling to left-center in the top of the fifth. He has now reached base in 35 straight games while also producing a hit in 12 straight games.
UP NEXT: Though both teams will leave the park exhausted after the late night, they'll have the luxury of sleeping in since they're not playing til 8:05 p.m. Sunday. ESPN's national audience will see lefties Gio Gonzalez and Alex Wood go head-to-head in the series finale.