Rendon slam leads Nats over Braves 6-3, lead cut to 4½ games

Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman, bottom, slides safely into third base past Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon on Josh Donaldson’s single in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Monday, July 29, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

By GREG SWATEK

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the entire stadium erupted around him, Anthony Rendon put his head down for another routine trip around the bases.

The notoriously even-keeled Rendon hit a tiebreaking grand slam in the sixth inning, and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-3 on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series to close within 4½ games of the NL East leader.

“Hit it far and loud,” manager Dave Martinez said. “It was clutch.”

With the score 2-2, Rendon connected off of Chad Sobotka for his 23rd home run this season and third career slam, raising his career RBIs total to 500. Rendon, who had two hits, is hitting .370 in his last 19 games with nine doubles, three homers and 20 RBIs.

“I wanted to be ready for the fastball, be on time, just see something over the middle of the plate,” the soft-spoken Rendon said.

Patrick Corbin (9-5) allowed two runs and five hits in six innings, striking out eight and walking one. Sean Doolittle gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Charlie Culberson in the ninth.

Dallas Keuchel (3-4) gave up four runs, six hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings, dropping to 0-3 with a 5.08 in five starts against Washington. Making his eighth start for the Braves since signing in June, he is 0-2 in three outings since winning at San Diego on July 12.

“Very disappointing. That’s about it,” said Keuchel, who expressed frustration with umpire Adam Hamari’s strike zone. “I thought I punched out about 10 guys. I got rewarded with extra at-bats. That’s where that lies.”

Juan Soto singled home a run in the first and Trea Turner hit an RBI double in the second. The 20-year-old Soto also made a leaping catch at the left-field wall in the sixth to deny Adam Duvall a possible two-run homer.

Atlanta scored in the fourth when Duvall hit a sharp two-out grounder to Rendon. The third baseman made a diving backhand stop, but his throw attempting to prevent an infield single sailed past first for an error and Freddie Freeman, who had been on second, came home.

“I don’t know how you airmail that ball,” Rendon said. “I had a lot of juice on that. Statcast that.”

Duvall hit a tying sacrifice fly in the sixth that Soto grabbed at the wall.

Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. went 0 for 4, ending his on-base streak at a career-best 32 games. Acuña stretched and reached to the grass to rob Adam Eaton of a hit in the second with Turner on second.

Josh Donaldson singled off the glove of second baseman Brian Dozier in the sixth for his 1,000th hit.

MAD MAX

RHP Max Scherzer went back on the 10-day IL with a minor rhomboid strain. The injury is in the same area as the inflammation under his right shoulder that forced the ace right-hander to the IL for 19 days this month. Scherzer was dominant in June and won seven consecutive starts as Washington worked its way back into playoff contention following a 19-31 start. He returned from the IL last Thursday and allowed three runs in five innings in a no-decision against the Rockies. The next day, he had an MRI that revealed the injury.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: Braves: RHP Jacob Webb (right elbow impingement) threw a scoreless inning for the rookie-level Gulf Coast Braves. “It’s been really encouraging where he’s been the last couple of times he’s thrown,” manager Brian Snitker said. … SS Dansby Swanson (bruised right heel) is expected to come off the IL when eligible this weekend against Cincinnati.

Nationals: A scan on the bruised right foot of 1B Matt Adams was negative, manager Dave Martinez said. Adams was stuck by a pitch Sunday. He is expected to be back in the lineup soon.

UP NEXT

Atlanta RHP Julio Teheran (5-7) enters Tuesday’s start 0-3 in seven outings since beating Pittsburgh on June 13. Nationals RHP Erick Fedde (1-1) was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg to take Scherzer’s turn.

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More AP MLB: HERE and TWITTER.

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