WASHINGTON — Erasing a five-run deficit was far easier for the Atlanta Braves than putting an end to Bryce Harper's home-run streak.
After rallying the late innings to pull even with the Washington Nationals, the Braves lost 8-6 Saturday when Harper hit a two-run drive in the bottom of the ninth.
Harper homered for the sixth time in his last three games, one off the major league record set by Shawn Green in 2002.
Washington's cleanup hitter sent a 1-0 pitch from Cody Martin (1-1) into the center-field seats after Atlanta dug out of a 6-1 hole with two runs in the seventh inning and three more in the eighth.
"I'm really proud of the way we battled back," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "There's no column for that — we didn't get the W, we got the L — but I'll tell you what, I'm proud of those guys in there."
After the comeback, Atlanta had to shut down the hot-hitting Harper, who, at 22, had already become the youngest player in big league history to hit five home runs in two games.
"Right now, no matter what age he is, he's not missing too many pitches," Gonzalez said. "He's swinging really well. Good for them, bad for us."
Harper's one-out drive pushed the Nationals, a preseason favorite to win the World Series, over .500 for the first time this year.
"It looked like (catcher Christian) Bethancourt was going to go pick it out of the dirt, but when the guy is going that good, that hot, you're almost going to have to bounce it there," Gonzalez said. "And maybe even then he could hit it out of the ballpark."
Harper homered three times versus Miami on Wednesday and connected twice against Atlanta on Friday night. On Saturday, his teammates ripped his jersey in the home-plate scrum, then pitcher Max Scherzer punctuated the party with the team's newest victory celebration — he poured chocolate sauce over Harper during a postgame interview.
"Around the bases, got to home plate, and to enjoy that with the team is huge," Harper said.
Harper has 12 RBIs in his last three games. He also made a nifty, running catch in right field in the eighth inning.
Drew Storen (1-0) pitched the top of the ninth for the win.
Washington has won nine of 11, going 4-0 against the Braves in that span. The Nationals were 7-13 before getting on a roll with three straight victories in Atlanta.
Harper hit it big on a day the Nationals celebrated their 10th season in Washington by having Hall of Fame slugger Frank Robinson throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Robinson was the Nationals' manager in their first two years after moving from Montreal.
Washington used home runs by Jose Lobaton and Ryan Zimmerman to go up 6-1 in the fifth. By that point, everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit against Julio Teheran.
Teheran gave up six runs and 10 hits in five innings. In two starts against Washington this season, the right-hander has yielded 13 runs and 20 hits.
Nationals starter Doug Fister took a three-hitter into the seventh and got the first two outs before allowing three straight hits — the last a two-run double by pinch-hitter Pedro Ciriaco.
The inning ended with Harper making a stretching, over-the-shoulder catch of Nick Markakis' liner.
Atlanta pulled even in the eighth when Jace Peterson had an RBI grounder and Bethancourt added a two-out, two-run double.
In the bottom half, pinch runner Michael A. Taylor was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Kelly Johnson trying to score from second on a single.
Braves: Andrelton Simmons has hit in eight straight games, going 12 for 29 (.429).
Nationals: Escobar is 10 for 24 with five RBIs in his last six games.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg said a flaw in his mechanics forced him from Tuesday's game, and that the problem has been solved. Strasburg said he changed his delivery because of an ankle injury, which in turn affected his back. Manager Matt Williams declined to specify a date for Strasburg's return.
Braves: Alex Wood (1-2, 4.32 ERA) seeks his first win since April 7 when he takes the mound Sunday in the series finale.
Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann (2-2, 4.15 ERA) is 5-2 lifetime against the Braves, including a win on April 29 in which he outdueled Wood.