WASHINGTON (AP) — Nationals manager Matt Williams passed up his first few opportunities to use outfielder Michael Taylor on Friday night.
When he did send him in, it worked to perfection.
Taylor, nursing a sore right knee, had a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift the Washington Nationals to a 5-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.
The Nationals pulled five games behind the NL-East leading Mets, who lost 6-5 in 11 innings at Miami.
"I want to play, so I was standing at the bat rack the whole game, trying to get in the game, just to be able to get in there and get a chance," said Taylor, who was out of the lineup for a third straight game and wanted to make sure Williams knew he was available.
"I'm just standing close, stretching, things like that."
Bryce Harper, who hit his 32nd homer in the first inning, singled off Matt Marksberry (0-3) leading off the 10th. Reliever Brandon Cunniff came on and Ryan Zimmerman grounded a single up the middle, sending Harper to third.
Taylor batted for Jonathan Papelbon and hit a 1-0 pitch high deep to left-center. A sacrifice fly or base hit would have been enough, but the ball sailed over the wall for his 14th home run and he was mobbed at home plate.
"Trying to keep my head on a swivel," he said of the celebration. "I took two Gatorade buckets and after that I was good on the water and Gatorade."
Williams said: "We were trying to stay off him if we can to give him one more day. There was debate whether if the inning was different and he got on base whether he was actually going to run."
Washington tied the score on Matt den Dekker's RBI single with two outs in the ninth. Yunel Escobar doubled to lead off the inning against Aradys Vizcaino, and pinch-runner Trea Turner scored on den Dekker's hit.
Papelbon (3-1), in his longest outing of the season, pitched two scoreless innings.
"It's not going to bet one game. It's not going to be a series here or there," Papelbon said of the playoff chase. "It's going to be us being able to keep the momentum we have right now and carrying that throughout the rest of the season to the last game of the season."
Freddie Freeman had three hits for the Braves, who have lost 10 in a row for the first time since 2006.
Atlanta took a 2-1 lead in the eighth when Freeman doubled against Drew Storen and scored on pinch-hitter Nick Swisher's one-out single.
Atlanta starter Julio Teheran continually pitched out of trouble, allowing a run and five hits and four walks in six innings.
"I like everything about the ballgame except the ending," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We didn't walk anybody (in the 10th). They got three hits to beat us. We fought back."
Tanner Roark, pitching in place of Stephen Strasburg, was making his first start since June 28. He was lifted with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning with the score tied 1-1.
After walking four times without a swing Thursday, Harper's first at-bat Friday night ended when he Teheran's 3-2 pitch into the seats in right center to make it 1-0.
The Braves tied it in the third. Nick Markakis went first to third on a single to deep left by Freeman, and scored when Pierzynski hit a dribbler toward third and beat the throw at first.
BRYCE HARPER AND BARRY BONDS
Williams hit behind all-time walks and home runs leader Barry Bonds and manages Harper, who's shown both power and patience at the plate this season. Asked to compare the two Friday, Williams said: "There's similarities there. It's apples and oranges of course, but Bryce is making those steps he needs to make. And he's been patient enough in viewing it as 'okay, I'm not going to expand my zone. If they chose not to pitch to me, then I've got somebody behind me who can pick it up.'"
A.J. PIERZYNSKI TIES BILL DICKEY
With his third-inning single, Atlanta's A.J. Pierzynski tied Hall of Famer Bill Dickey (1,969) for 10th place all-time in hits among catchers.
Nationals: Taylor had an MRI on Thursday night and was out of the lineup for the third straight game. "All the results were good," manager Matt Williams said. . RHP Aaron Barrett underwent successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Thursday. "He's on the road to recovery now," Williams said. "It's disappointing for him certainly, but he's a warrior and he'll work hard to get back."
Atlanta: RHP Shelby Miller (5-12, 2.56) is winless in his last 19 starts, but allowed one run in seven innings of a 4-0 loss to the Marlins on Monday. Miller is 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA in six career starts against Washington.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-7, 4.13) is 5-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 11 starts this season at home. He's lost his last three decisions.