Francoeur, Braves start Nats' final RFK homestand with loss

WASHINGTON (AP) -- By the looks of this game, RFK Stadium is not quite ready to say goodbye to baseball just yet.

And the Atlanta Braves are not quite ready to give up hope of a late run to make the playoffs.

Jeff Francoeur's bases-loaded single in the 13th inning drove in two runs and led Atlanta to a rain-soaked 8-5 victory over Washington on Friday night in the opening game of the Nationals' final homestand at the aging park with the bouncing stands.

"Wow, what a night, eh? Started late. It rained the whole game. And we end up winning in the 13th," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Then he added: "That was the 13th, right?"

The game began after a 16-minute rain delay and finished well past midnight after lasting 5 hours, 13 minutes -- the longest game by time for the Nationals since they arrived in the nation's capital in 2005.

Each team used eight pitchers and 23 total players, and Washington was out of position players by the 11th.

"It was wet as could be," Francoeur said. "When we started the game, they pretty much told us that we were going to play in the rain all night."

Atlanta had lost three of four games coming into this one to fall 9 1/2 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East and 4 1/2 behind the San Diego Padres in the wild-card standings.

"We're still fighting. Every ballgame means an awful lot to us," Cox said. "We can't afford any losses at all hardly down the stretch -- a couple maybe, but we need to run the table."

Jesus Colome (4-1) came in to pitch the 13th for Washington and with one out, he allowed Martin Prado's single to right, followed by Chipper Jones' single. That made Jones 3-for-5 with two walks in his return to the lineup after missing three games with an injured side muscle.

Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases, bringing up Francoeur, who broke the 5-5 tie that had lasted since the ninth. Francoeur was 0-for-5 for the night before coming through.

Andruw Jones followed with a sacrifice fly.

"Right now, I don't know what's going on," said Colome, who has been scored on in five of 13 appearances since coming off the disabled list Aug. 19.

Jose Ascanio (1-1) threw two scoreless innings for his first major league victory. The Nationals' last hit came in the ninth.

The Braves led 3-0, then trailed 5-3 after Washington's Ryan Zimmerman hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the seventh off Tyler Yates. It was Zimmerman's 24th homer this season.

But Atlanta came back against what is widely considered the strength of Washington's team, its bullpen.

"They just blew it," Washington manager Manny Acta said.

Matt Diaz delivered an RBI single off setup man Jon Rauch in the eighth, and Chipper Jones -- back in the lineup after missing three starts with an injured side muscle -- tied the game at 5-5 with a one-out RBI double to right off closer Chad Cordero.

And then they played, on and on, as the rain fell and puddles formed around the infield.

Scattered hundreds of an announced crowd of 18,568 at the 45,000-plus-capacity stadium were left by the end, dealing with steady showers that came and went throughout the evening.

The Nationals are moving into a new ballpark in 2008, so the 10-game homestand that began Friday marks baseball's farewell to an aging arena that hosted three major league teams and the NFL's Redskins and will continue to host soccer's D.C. United.

A gold, red, white and blue patch was sewed on the left arm of the Nationals' jerseys, with a silhouette of the stadium against a backdrop of the Capitol building, along with the years of the first (1962) and last (2007) big league ballgames.

There was a gap of more than 30 years in there, of course, from when the Senators left to become the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season, and when the Montreal Expos moved to town before the 2005 season.

Hours before the end, Atlanta began the game with four consecutive hits off left-hander Matt Chico to load the bases. Teixeira then delivered a two-run double to left, before Chico finally recorded an out by striking out Francoeur. Andruw Jones followed with a sacrifice fly to center, making it 3-0.

Chico needed 15 minutes to get three outs.

That set the tone for a long night.

Cox summed it up: "One of those crazy nights."

Game notes
Nationals LHP Micah Bowie (sports hernia) went on the 60-day DL. ... Nationals RHP John Patterson had surgery Friday on a nerve in his right arm. He went 1-5 with a 7.47 ERA in seven starts this season. He went on the DL on May 6.