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Nats use five-run 8th to stun Braves

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Just when it looked like the Nationals'
bullpen had blown a game for a second straight night with a bad
eighth inning, the Braves' Dan Kolb came in and fared even worse.

The Nationals scored five runs in the eighth, including four off
the struggling Kolb, and backup catcher Gary Bennett had a
career-high five RBI to lead Washington to an 8-6 victory over
Atlanta on Thursday night.

Kolb (1-5) entered in the bottom of the eighth with a 6-3 lead
after the Braves had rallied for four runs in the top of the
inning. He gave way to Kevin Gryboski after recording just one out,
leaving with the score 6-5 and runners on second and third.

After Gryboski intentionally walked Marlon Byrd to load the
bases, Bennett doubled into right-center field to score all three
runners.

"I pretty much feel terrible about my whole season right now,"
said Kolb, whose ERA is now 7.29. "Go home, do some thinking and
see what happens tomorrow."

Bennett's go-ahead hit came after he gave the Nationals a 2-0
lead in the second with his first home run of the season, a two-run
shot.

"He got us off to a good start today, and he put a good finish
on it at the end," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.

The loss dropped the Braves percentage points behind first-place
Florida in the NL East, with Washington 1½ games back.

"You sure hate to lose it after you after you come back like
that, haven't been hitting a whole bunch and get four runs and then
give five up right away," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Robinson, on the other hand, said the victory was huge for the
Nationals, who won three of the four games in the series.

"This was a big, big, big ballgame," he said. "It's the type
of game you can get some momentum on."

The Nationals got started in the eighth when Carlos Baerga
pulled a grounder through the right side of the infield to score
Jamey Carroll, followed by Vinny Castilla's RBI double that cut
Atlanta's lead to 6-5 and chased Kolb.

Washington reliever Gary Majewski, who had made 11 straight
appearances without giving up a run, inherited a 3-2 lead in the
eighth but couldn't hold it. Andruw Jones tied it with a one-out
sacrifice fly. The Braves then loaded the bases, and all three
runners scored after a single by pinch-hitter Johnny Estrada.

Estrada, after falling behind 0-2 in the count, fouled off three
straight pitches before hitting a grounder up the middle past
Majewski. All three runners scored on the play after a throwing
error by center fielder Brad Wilkerson, who had tried to throw out
Wilson Betemit at third.

Hector Carrasco (2-1) replaced Majewski and got the final out of
the eighth before Chad Cordero pitched the ninth for his 14th save
in 16 chances.

The Nationals blew a two-run lead Wednesday night against the
Braves, giving up three runs in the eighth and losing 5-4. That
came after Washington posted three consecutive one-run victories.

Washington received another good start by Esteban Loaiza, who
allowed two runs and five hits over six innings, striking out
seven. He is 1-4 despite a respectable 3.61 ERA. The Nationals
average 1.9 runs when Loaiza is in the game, the worst run support
in the majors for any starting pitcher.

Loaiza helped his own cause leading off the fifth with a double,
moving to third on Wilkerson's groundout, and scoring on Carroll's
sacrifice fly when a poor throw by right fielder Brian Jordan
allowed the slow-footed Loaiza to trot in just ahead of the tag.

Loaiza pitched his way out of a jam in the sixth. After a
one-out RBI single by Adam LaRoche made it 3-2 with runners on
first and second, Loaiza struck out Andruw Jones and Jordan in
succession to end the inning.

Game notes
Nationals 1B Johnson left the game after seven innings,
complaining of chest pains. He was later diagnosed with stomach
reflux. ... Nationals 3B Castilla ground into double plays in the
third and sixth innings. ... Pena's groundout RBI in the fifth was
the first of his career. He was playing in only his fourth game of
the year. ... The Nationals twice had runners picked off late in
the game, Byrd in the sixth and Cristian Guzman in the seventh.