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Braves win marathon

WASHINGTON - By the looks of this game, RFK Stadium isn't quite ready to say goodbye to baseball just yet. Jeff Francoeur's bases-loaded single in the 13th inning drove in two runs and led the Atlanta Braves to a rain-soaked 8-5 victory over Washington in the opening game of the Nationals' final homestand at the aging park with the bouncing stands. The game began Friday night after a 16-minute rain delay and finished well past midnight Saturday 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 additional position players by the 11th. 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. 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. Jose Ascanio (1-1) threw two scoreless innings for the 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. 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, and Brian McCann grounded out to first to end the inning. So Chico needed 31 pitches spread out over 15 minutes to get three outs. But then, just as quickly as he got into trouble, he settled right down. Over the next five innings, he allowed two hits and a walk, and it goes into the books as a quality start: three runs and six hits over six innings. That smooth recovery by the rookie gave Washington a chance to get back into the game against Chuck James, who went three-plus innings in his shortest start of 2007, charged with three runs and six hits. Notes:Chipper Jones was 3-for-5 with two walks, and went down to a knee to make a nice grab of Ronnie Belliard's liner to end the fourth. ... Nationals LHP Micah Bowie (sports hernia) went on the 60-day DL.

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