Washington Nationals' closer Matt Capps has had three multi-inning performances since the start of 2009.  Two of the three ended in losses.

After Wednesday night's 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves, you can add another loss to that short list.

Manager Jim Riggleman brought Capps into a six-all tie in the top of the ninth, after burning through most of his bullpen to get to that point.  It's a strange spot to call upon your closer; a non-save situation.

Capps blew away the Braves in his first inning, mowing down the heart of the order in order--getting Martin Prado and Chipper Jones to ground out and punching out Brian McCann.

But faced with the idea of turning to Miguel Batista, who almost blew last night's game, or Tyler Clippard, who went one and two-thirds innings in last night's win, Riggleman stuck with his closer to throw another inning.

He didn't even have either pitcher warming while the Nats were hitting in the bottom of the ninth.

So Capps (L, 0-1, 1.10) trudged back out on the mound in the tenth, and promptly gave up a single to Troy Glaus.  Melky Cabrera successfully sacrificed pinch-runner Brandon Hicks (making his major league debut) to second, and Matt Diaz followed with a run-scoring single.

Just like that, an imminently winnable game went down the drain.

"Matt really threw the ball good, actually.  He had a very clean first inning. Second inning Glaus had a  good at bat and Willingham made a great play to keep that to a single.  But [The Braves] played good baseball," Riggleman said.

"They bunted [Hicks] over and unfortunately Diaz' ball kinda flared down the right field line and dropped in there.  But Matt threw the ball very good.  Primarily he goes the one inning, but he went two tonight and had good stuff the second inning, he just, you know, they got him."

In the bottom of the tenth, a managerial decision would shape the situation as well.

Cristian Guzman led off the inning against closer Billy Wagner with a single to center field.  Eschewing a sacrifice, Riggleman let right-handed batter Ian Desmond hit away against Wagner.  The rookie fought off several pitches before ultimately flying out to right field.

Pinch-hitter Wil Nieves struck out, and Josh Willingham lined out to left field to end the game.

Riggleman was asked about his strategy for the bottom of the tenth in the post-game press conference.

"We were pretty strapped at that point.  With our bullpen there, knowing we've got all these games in a row, I didn't really want to play a tie game, I wanted to win the game right there.  At some point there if we bunt, they're going to have the opportunity to pitch around Willingham, so I wanted Willingham to get the chance to swing the bat."

"I didn't want to leave an open base.  It would have been a tough call on their part to walk the winning run on, but then they would have been facing left-on-left with Wagner on Morgan,  So I was concerned they would do that.  I wanted Desmond and Willingham both have a chance to swing against a left-handed pitcher."

"If we'd have bunted that night not have happened."

It's interesting that Riggleman did not use the bunt in the tenth as he did in the first inning.

Nyjer Morgan led off with a ground-rule double to left center that would have been an easy triple had it hit the wall instead of bouncing over.  Riggleman then had Adam Kennedy sacrifice Morgan to third base, where Ryan Zimmerman then his a sac fly to plate the run.

Adam Dunn followed with a walk off Braves starter Tommy Hanson (6 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 5 K) and Ivan Rodriguez doubled, putting runners at second and third and putting the Braves starter in hot water.  But with two outs, Willie Harris could not come up with the big hit to finish off Hanson, popping up to third baseman Chipper Jones.

The Nats did battle back to tie the game late, letting starting pitcher Luis Atilano off the hook.  Atilano was not as sharp in his third start of the season as he had in his first two.  He went five and one-third innings, giving up six earned runs on seven hits and five walks, striking out four.

He also allowed light-hitting back-up shortstop Omar Infante to hit his first home run of the season.

Ian Desmond homered for the second consecutive game, and Willingham had a big two-run pinch-hit single in the eighth inning to tie the game off Takashi Saito.

But Kris Medlen (W, 1-1, 2.55) pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Braves, and Wagner did the rest.

The rubber game of the three-game set is Thursday at 7:05 pm.  Scott Olsen (2-1) faces Tim Hudson (2-1).

NATS NOTES:  Ivan Rodriguez went 2-for-5 with an RBI, and his batting average sits at .405.

Braves rookie phenom Jason Heyward left early with a strained groin.  He is day-to-day.

Nyjer Morgan was 3-for-5 with a run and an RBI.  He was thrown out attempting a steal, however, his sixth caught stealing of the season.

Washington is now 0-3 in extra innings games this season.

The Nats left nine men on, struck out eight times, and had just three walks, all by Adam Dunn.

Before the National Anthem, there was a moment of silence to honor the passing of Ernie Harwell.  Harwell was the voice of the Detroit Tigers for 42 years and only missed two games.

Davey Johnson, a Senior Advisor to GM Mike Rizzo, was on the field today for batting practice.

Braves Manager Bobby Cox (retiring at end of this season) and MASN's Ray Knight in the dugout during batting practice.

Don Sutton back at Nats Park. Sutton was the MASN color commentator for the Nats from 2007-Jan 2009 and is now back with the Braves broadcasting their games on the radio.

Screech celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

All Photos 2010 © Cheryl Nichols Photography/Nationals News Network. All Rights Reserved.