ATLANTA (AP) — Gio Gonzalez took off from the mound to cover first base, then stopped before starting to run again.
It was too late.
With first base uncovered, Gonzalez was left to regret his fifth-inning mistake as the Atlanta Braves took the lead in their 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday night.
"I should have gotten over," Gonzalez said. "There's no excuse. You've got to get over on that ball, keep your team in the game."
The mistake helped seal Washington's fate in the game and the series. The Nationals lost two of three, trimming their NL East lead over the Braves to 3½ games.
With the game tied 1-1, Emilio Bonifacio led off the fifth with a bunt single, despite a creative defensive effort by Gonzalez (6-9). The pitcher fielded the ball with his back to first base and flipped the ball between his legs to Adam LaRoche. Bonifacio was safe despite a collision with LaRoche.
With two outs and Bonifacio on third, Jason Heyward hit a grounder to second baseman Danny Espinosa. LaRoche broke for the grounder, leaving first base uncovered as Gonzalez was late running to the bag. Heyward was safe with the single as Bonifacio scored the go-ahead run.
Nationals manager Matt Williams said Gonzalez "got caught watching the play."
"We had a shot at getting (Heyward) at first base, certainly," Williams said. "There was nobody there. Ultimately, that's the difference in the game."
Gonzalez gave up two runs, six hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings. He has lost four straight starts.
Alex Wood (8-9) set a career high with 12 strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings for the Braves, who are 9-4 against the Nationals this season and 22-10 over the last two years.
"It's almost like a playoff game when we play them, no matter when it is," Wood said. "I think we've got some guys that are gamers in here and really enjoy that challenge and enjoy rising to that occasion."
Justin Upton homered for the Braves, who had lost nine of their last 10.
Ian Desmond's fourth-inning homer was the only run allowed by Wood.
Pinch-hitter Evan Gattis hit a single to right field off Jerry Blevins in the eighth to drive in Chris Johnson, who walked.