ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves split a doubleheader and felt like they had been swept.
In the opener, Andruw Jones hit his 43rd homer and drove in all five runs to lead the Braves past the Nationals 5-3.
It was two more tight games between NL East rivals that have been doing this all season. Ten of their 15 meetings have been decided by one run, three others by two runs.
"Losing that second game the way we did, it almost feels like we've been swept," said Adam LaRoche, who was thrown out at the plate trying to score the go-ahead run in the eighth. "That's a tough loss."
Atlanta rallied from a 3-1 deficit, but Wilkerson led off the ninth with a single off Chris Reitsma (3-5), moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then took off for third on a steal.
When the throw by rookie catcher Brian McCann sailed into left field, Wilkerson sped home with the go-ahead run. Chad Cordero worked the ninth for his 43rd save, tying John Wetteland's 1993 franchise record with the Montreal Expos.
"We've played a ton of one-run games," LaRoche said. "I know we've won some of them, but it just feels like we've lost most of them."
Actually, the Braves have a 6-4 edge on the Nationals in one-run games. Washington holds an 8-7 lead overall and remained six games behind first-place Atlanta.
"I guess they decided to give me a birthday present," said National manager Frank Robinson, who turned 70.
Wilkerson noticed Reitsma's slow windup and decided to take a chance, knowing how the Nationals have struggled to score runs.
"If you get thrown out, it looks bad," Wilkerson said. "But I took the risk, and it worked out."
McCann had a good pitch to handle, but "I tried to hurry up the throw and it sailed on me. It's terrible."
Atlanta rookie Wilson Betemit had a career-best four hits, including a two-out, bases-loaded single in the eighth. The tying run scored, but LaRoche was tagged out on a strong throw by right fielder Jose Guillen.
Betemit's run-scoring hit off Mike Stanton (1-1) denied Washington starter Livan Hernandez his first win at Turner Field. He remained 2-13 in his regular-season career against the Braves, including 0-7 in Atlanta.
Hernandez usually saves his wins for the postseason, beating Atlanta three times in the playoffs.
"I have pitched a lot of good games, but lose," he said. "But the most important thing is for the team to win."
McCann's errant throw wasn't the only miscue by Atlanta. Second baseman Pete Orr fumbled the ball trying to turn a a double play, allowing a run to score in the seventh. Newcomer Todd Hollandsworth ran the Braves out of a potentially big inning in the bottom half, getting caught off second during an aborted bunt.
John Thomson has yet to win in four starts since coming off the DL. But, in his most effective appearance, the Braves starter gave up eight hits and two runs in six innings.
- Thomson struggled in his first three starts coming off a long stay on the DL. He gave up 16 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings.
- Chipper Jones left the second game because of a stomach virus.