Evan Gattis, who earlier extended his hitting streak to 19 games, singled in the go-ahead run off Jerry Blevins (2-3). Andrelton Simmons followed with an RBI groundout that might have been an inning-ending double play had second baseman Danny Espinosa not bobbled the ball.
The win moved the Braves back into first place by one-half game and maintained their mastery over their division rivals. Atlanta was struggling before arriving in D.C. this week, but the club is 20-7 vs. Washington since the start of last season, including the first two of this four-game set.
Ryan Buchter (1-0) pitched the 12th to get the win in his major league debut, and Jordan Walden worked the 13th for his second save.
Anthony Rendon tied the game with a two-run shot when the Nationals were down to their last out. He got every bit of a 98 mph fastball from Kimbrel, the first homer allowed by the Braves closer this season.
The umpires initially ruled Rendon's hit a double, but a replay review clearly showed the ball striking the top of the barrier next to the visitor's bullpen beyond the outfield fence.
Until then, the Braves were poised to celebrate another nine-inning edition of continued dominance of the Nationals, this time by two-striking Stephen Strasburg into submission while riding Mike Minor's 11 strikeouts.
The Braves got nine hits against Strasburg, and six came with a pair of strikes, including every run-producing play: Freddie Freeman's first-inning home run, Simmons’ fourth-inning RBI single and Jason Heyward's two-run double in the fifth.
That was plenty of support as long as Minor was in the game. He allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings, and his 11 strikeouts were one short of a career high. Minor had given up 11 runs and 22 hits over nine innings in his previous two starts.
The Braves fouled pitches and worked the count so successfully that Strasburg had thrown 107 pitches by the time he was pulled after six innings, even though he didn't walk a batter. He allowed nine hits — tying a career high — and struck out eight.
Minor, by contrast, was able to finish off the Nationals’ batters. He gave up Ian Desmond's mammoth homer in the second inning — the ball landed only a row or two from the cherry trees behind the left-field bleachers — and Denard Span's RBI triple in the seventh.
NOTES: Kimbrel blew a save for the fourth time this season. ... Gattis has the longest active hitting streak in the majors. ... Braves RHP Gavin Floyd was placed on the 15-day disabled list, one day after breaking a bone in his throwing elbow in the seventh inning of Thursday's win. Floyd flew to Atlanta to be examined by team doctors. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Alex Wood will take Floyd's spot in the rotation, starting Wednesday against the Houston Astros. ... Atlanta OF Justin Upton complained again of dizziness and was not in the lineup. He did not play Wednesday and appeared only as a pinch-hitter Thursday. Gonzalez said it is time for Upton to “get a full evaluation, wherever that may be.”