NL East wrap: Balk gives Braves win over Mets

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Thursday, June 16, 2011
Posted: 11:35 p.m.Updated: June 17, 12:20 a.m.
The Associated Press

Braves 9, Mets 8 (10 Innings)

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ATLANTA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't even see the balk that gave Atlanta its latest extra-innings win.

Everyone else did.

With a runner on third and two outs in the 10th inning, Mets reliever D.J. Carrasco stopped and then restarted his motion with Jason Heyward at the plate, bringing home the winning run to give the Atlanta Braves a 9-8 win Thursday night.

"The next thing I know Heyward's hands are in the air without a bat," Gonzalez said. "I said 'What's going on?'"

Heyward said he recognized the balk immediately.

"(Carrasco) went to set and then he tried to go back and get another sign ... without stepping off," Heyward said.

Even Carrasco couldn't argue the call by plate umpire James Hoye that scored Diory Hernandez from third.

"Yeah, as soon as he said it, it made sense," Carrasco said. "It's kind of like surreal."

Hernandez doubled with two outs in the 10th and took third after first baseman Lucas Duda mishandled Jordan Schafer's grounder. Hernandez scored the winning run on the balk as Gonzalez watched from the dugout.

It was all made possible by Brooks Conrad's homer off Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth. That came after the Mets took a two-run lead after coming back from a 6-2 deficit.

K-Rod hadn't blown a save since his first appearance for the Mets, who were trying to sweep a three-game series and go above .500 for the first time since April 6. Instead, the Braves got their 13th final at-bat victory of the season.

"For us to at least scratch one out of the series, it was a hard-fought win for us," Conrad said.

Nationals 7, Cardinals 4 (10 Innings)

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WASHINGTON -- Barely three weeks ago, Jayson Werth vowed that changes had to be made for the Washington Nationals to win regularly. Werth never specified what those changes were, but since then the Nationals have certainly played well.

On Thursday night, they won their sixth straight -- their longest winning streak since the end of the 2009 season -- and did it dramatically. Danny Espinosa's three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th gave the Washington a 7-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

"This has been close to happening for quite some time," Werth said. "We've taken that step to win those games. We've finally got on a roll, and hopefully it keeps going."

Ryan Zimmerman led off the 10th with a single off Fernando Salas (3-1). With one out, Salas hit Michael Morse with a pitch and Espinosa followed by hitting a 2-1 changeup into the bullpen in right. It was his 12th home run of the season, and the first allowed by Salas.

Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina greeted Espinosa, who had three hits and four RBIs, with a Gatorade bath.

"A couple of weeks ago, I thought we were swinging the bats well. It just wasn't falling for us," Espinosa said. "Our hitting was there. We were just unlucky."

During this streak, the Nationals have had practiced hitting home runs and celebrating. In the three-game sweep of the Cardinals, who have lost six straight, Washington scored 25 runs including eight home runs in the past two games.

"It's that time of year," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "The ball is flying."

Sean Burnett (2-3), Washington's fourth pitcher, threw a scoreless 10th for the win.

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