ATLANTA — On Opening Day, the Braves looked ready to walk away with a win against their arch rival, the Nationals, after Jeff Francoeur scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of his homecoming.
Then the Braves fumbled away a lead and the game, spoiling Opening Day in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to Washington before an announced sellout crowd of 48,282 Monday afternoon at Turner Field.
After the Braves took a 3-2 lead on Adonis Garcia’s bases-loaded walk in the eighth, the Nationals scored the tying run in the ninth when catcher A.J. Pierznski dropped a throw to the plate on Michael Taylor’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly to shallow center field, preventing a would-be game-ending double play.
The Nationals scored the winning run in the 10th after a two-base throwing error on second baseman Gordon Beckham, who had entered the game in the ninth inning. He was playing on the shortstop side of second base in a defensive shift when Beckham fielded Ryan Zimmerman’s grounder and threw way wide of first base. Daniel Murphy followed with an RBI double off left-hander Eric O’Flaherty for a 4-3 lead.
Reduced to footnotes were home runs by Garcia and Freddie Freeman, as well as a quality start from Julio Teheran and impressive relief from Dan Winkler, who struck out the side in the seventh inning, and Arodys Vizcaino, who struck out two in the eighth.
Inciarte’s throw was a good one, but Pierzysnki dropped it and ruined what could’ve been a nifty escape for closer Jason Grilli, after the Nationals loaded the bases in the ninth with no outs on a walk, single and a bunt just up the first-base line that went for another single.
Grilli struck out Stephen Drew for the first out, and Tayloer flied to center fielder Ender Inciarte, who bounced a throw that beat Werth to the plate by a couple of steps. Pierzynski never appeared to have control of the ball before trying to make the tag.
Garcia, after hitting a game-tying solo homer in the fourth, drew a four-pitch walk with bases loaded in the eighth to score Francoeur, who was greeted with thunderous applause when he came up to pinch-hit with one out and got the rally started with a full-count walk against left-hander Felip Rivero.
The Braves hoped a healthy Freeman and full season of Garcia will help boost their team’s feeble home-run total from 2015, and those two came through with a homer apiece in the opener.
But before Freeman homered off Max Scherzer in the first inning and Garcia in the fourth, the Nationals had taken a lead with a homer against Teheran in the top of each of those innings, with Braves nemesis Bryce Harper starting things on a towering homer to the right-field seats with two outs in the opening inning.
All four homers in the first four innings were solo shots and the score was tied, 2-2, through four innings, then through five, six and seven. The Braves broke through again in the eighth, this time with small ball and Nationals mistakes.
After Francoeur’s walk, Inciarte singled and Freeman was hit by a pitch with the count full to load the bases. Right-hander Shawn Kelly replaced Rivero and walked Garcia on four pitches to give the Braves a 3-2 lead.
Freeman led the Braves with 18 homers last season despite missing 44 games during two stints on the disabled list for a wrist injury that bothered him through December. He never faced Scherzer, not even in spring training, until Monday.
In his first matchup with the big right-hander, Freeman got ahead 2-0, then swung through two fastballs before homering on a 96-mile-per-hour heater, driving it over the wall in straightaway center.
Garcia and the since-traded Cameron Maybin were next for the Braves with 10 homers apiece last season, Garcia doing it in only 198 plate appearances (58 games). The Braves hope he can hit 15-20 this season if the 400 or more plate appearances they think he’ll get as the primary third baseman.
Washington home runs from Harper and Daniel Murphy made it 29 homers allowed by Teheran in 32 starts going back to April 17, 2015, including seven in four starts against the Nationals during that stretch.
But Teheran was otherwise solid Monday, allowing five hits and two runs in six innings, with three walks and four strikeouts. He’s made three consecutive Opening-Day starts for the Braves and gone 1-1 with a 2.50 ERA, including no decision Monday.
Harper has hit .440 with four homers in 25 career at-bats against Teheran, including his two-out homer in the opening inning Monday, after he was greeted by a chorus of boos at Turner Field.
A two-out throwing error by shortstop Erick Aybar — on the first ball hit to him in the post-Andrelton Simmons era — extended the first inning, and Teheran walked Murphy before striking out Werth to end the 30-pitch inning.