CHARLES ODUM,AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — The Braves will have little time to recover after exhausting their bullpen in an 8-7 loss to the Washington Nationals on Saturday night in a game that lasted 15 innings and almost 5½ hours.
Kris Medlen, scheduled to start Tuesday at the Mets, made his first relief appearance of the season as Atlanta’s ninth pitcher of the night and gave up Adam LaRoche’s homer in the 15th.
“It’s easy to get up for it when you’ve got your team scratching and clawing to get back into the game,” Medlen said.
“It’s a situation I’ve been in before. Once you’ve experienced it before you want to get into the game and be part of it.”
The game ended about 12 hours before the scheduled start of Sunday’s final game of the series.
Medlen (10-11), who was pressed into service after Atlanta exhausted its bullpen.
Braves starter Mike Minor allowed four runs in only 1 2-3 innings, the shortest of his 78 career starts.
Minor gave up bases-loaded, two-run singles to Wilson Ramos in the first and Jayson Werth in the second.
The game lasted 5 hours, 29 minutes. Minor said watching the final 4 hours of the game was difficult.
“It didn’t feel good,” Minor said. “We were here all night. It would have been great to get a win. I feel like I should have done something more. I didn’t help out the team at all.”
Jason Heyward hit two homers, including a two-run shot in the ninth as Rafael Soriano blew a 7-5 lead.
Atlanta’s Brian McCann had three hits, including a two-run homer. Freddie Freeman also homered for the Braves. Ryan Zimmerman hit a homer for Washington.
Craig Stammen (6-5) allowed no hits in three scoreless innings, striking out five with one walk. Dan Haren pitched the 15th for his first career save.
There were tensions in the first two innings which led to the ejection of Washington starter Stephen Strasburg. He hit Justin Upton with a pitch in the first and was tossed after throwing two straight pitches behind Andrelton Simmons’ back.
The Nationals insisted Strasburg wasn’t trying to hit Simmons, but instead was unable to regain his control after walking Jordan Schafer on four pitches to open the second.
“He’s still kind of learning to deal with the adversities of pitching up here,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who also was ejected by plate umpire Marvin Hudson when he argued in defense of Strasburg.
“When he went back out in the second inning, I’ve never seen his command so bad,” Johnson said. “He couldn’t come close to the first hitter he faced. Then he threw a curve ball that was eight feet outside and then a couple balls that were behind the hitter. It didn’t look like he was trying to hit (Simmons). He couldn’t find the strike zone.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said it was “just weird” to see Strasburg’s suddenly unable to throw strikes. He said he didn’t think Strasburg was trying to hit Simmons.
“I don’t know if there’s something wrong with him physically, because it just didn’t look right,” Gonzalez said. “It didn’t look right.”
Entering the game, Strasburg had thrown three wild pitches in 146 1-3 innings. He doubled that total by unleashing three consecutive wild pitches, including the two behind Simmons’ back.
Soriano suffered his sixth blown save. Heyward’s second homer of the game, a two-run shot to right-center with two outs in the ninth, sent the game to extra innings.
Braves pitchers hit Bryce Harper with two pitches in Atlanta’s win on Friday night, leaving the outfielder bruised and unable to start on Saturday night.
That set the stage for Strasburg.
Strasburg hit Upton in the first inning one pitch after Heyward’s leadoff home run. The pitch hit Upton’s backside, and he quickly ran to first.
Asked if he meant to hit Upton, Strasburg said “I’m not going to get into that.”
But the answer seemed clear.
“Well after somebody goes deep and you hit him in the rear end, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if he did it on purpose or not.”
Tanner Roark dominated the Braves after taking over for Strasburg. Roark allowed only one hit in four scoreless innings. He had a run-scoring double in the fifth for his first major league hit and RBI.
Harper was in Johnson’s original lineup, but was held out with bruised triceps until entering the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth.
Strasburg gave up two runs and two hits, two walks and one hit batter in one-plus inning. Like Minor, he also had the shortest start of his career.
Werth doubled off Luis Ayala in the sixth and scored on a single by Wilson Ramos.
NOTES: Washington’s Scott Hairston was ejected by Hudson in the ninth for arguing a called third strike. … The Nationals placed RHP Taylor Jordan on the 15-day DL with a lower back strain. Tyler Moore was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse and had two hits while starting at first base. … The Braves signed IF Tyler Greene to a minor league contract. Greene, released by the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, was assigned to Triple-A Gwinnett. … 2B Dan Uggla, who had corrective eye surgery on Friday, said a test Saturday showed his vision at 20-15. He expects to be ready to play when eligible to come off the 15-day DL on Aug. 28. … The series concludes on Sunday when Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez faces Atlanta’s Julio Teheran.