ATLANTA — Josh Donaldson finally put his name on the Atlanta Braves' list of game-ending heroes in a season with many of them.
Donaldson's bases-loaded single off Fernando Rodney in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted the Braves over the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Friday night after Luke Jackson allowed a tying two-run homer to Victor Robles in the top half.
Ronald Acuña Jr., who had three hits, led off the bottom half with a walk off Rodney (0-3) and took second on Dansby Swanson's single. Freddie Freeman walked on four pitches, loading the bases.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez brought in left fielder Juan Soto as a fifth infielder, including three on the left side against the right-handed hitting Donaldson.
Rodney's plan was "get a ground ball for a double play." Instead, Donaldson lofted a 2-0 pitch over Robles to the warning track in left-center field, and the Braves boosted their lead in the National League's East Division to 6 1/2 games over the second-place Nationals. Atlanta had lost its previous five home games against Washington.
The Braves have six walk-off wins in 2019, but it was Donaldson's first game-ending hit since 2015 with the Toronto Blue Jays. That void had not escaped his attention.
"I was actually looking at that today," Donaldson said.
His teammates surrounded him near first base for an on-field celebration.
Entering the game, Donaldson's 14 homers since June 11 were tied with Cody Bellinger for the most in the majors in that span.
Donaldson, who signed a one-year, $23 million contract with Atlanta as a free agent, is hitting .255 with 22 homers. His power stroke as a cleanup hitter has given Freeman protection in the lineup.
"This is what I expect of myself," Donaldson said. "I'm just glad to be put in a situation where I could help the team win the ballgame."
Martinez said Nationals closer Sean Doolittle was ready in the bullpen. Martinez said he liked the matchups with Rodney against Acuña and Swanson, even though the 42-year-old Rodney rarely is asked to pitch more than one inning.
"When you're playing on the road, Doolittle comes in the game for a save," Martinez said. "With a tie game, if he comes in right there and we have to pinch-hit for him right away, then we're looking at who knows who?"
Robles' homer went 446 feet to left field, giving Jackson his seventh blown save in 24 chances this year.
Julio Teheran gave up one hit through five scoreless innings and retired 14 consecutive hitters before pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra singled with one out in the sixth. Anthony Rendon chased Teheran with a two-out RBI single.
Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin allowed two runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out Ozzie Albies with the bases loaded in the first and fanned Albies to end the fifth.
Albies hit a two-out double in the fourth and scored on Austin Riley's double. Acuña's RBI double against Tanner Rainey gave the Braves a 3-1 lead.
Corbin couldn't win on his 30th birthday while paired with catcher Yan Gomes, who turned 32. Corbin and Gomes became only the second pitcher-catcher tandem to start together on their birthdays since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Chicago Cubs pitcher Dave Hillman and catcher Jim Fanning did it against Pittsburgh on Sept. 14, 1957.
Freeman was 2-for-20 in his MLB career against Corbin before his RBI single in the fifth.
Acuña has reached base in a career-best 26 consecutive games since June 19, the longest active streak in the majors. Donaldson's on-base streak was extended to 16 games.
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