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Josh Donaldson might be getting closer to who you expected

Gabriel Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Baseball

Hours before Saturday's first pitch, Josh Donaldson was the first to take batting practice, emphasizing work against breaking balls. His Braves teammates later followed suit, taking hacks to a Donaldson-selected playlist which included tunes spanning from Tupac to Hank Williams Jr. to T.I. to Nirvana.

Donaldson homered the day before, but his overall results simply hadn't been there. He -- and his $23 million price tag -- came to the Braves with high expectations. "The Bringer of Rain," as he's known, was already drawing the ire of fans for underperforming.

Maybe Saturday goes down as the evening the former MVP was revived. Or at least began his redemption for a mediocre start.

Donaldson went 3-for-4, doubling and blasting the go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth in a game the Braves eventually lost 6-5. He followed that up with another home run in his three-hit Sunday, helping the Braves to a 15-1 series-clinching win.

"I felt like I was right there, it was just a matter of time," Donaldson said. "I got on the field to get in some early work (Saturday) in a relaxed environment, work at my own pace, see some breaking balls. Over the course of the weekend, I had five or six (hits) against the off-speed. That's something that I've been lacking all year."

His work against breaking balls paid off: On Saturday, Donaldson singled and doubled off Aaron Nola's acclaimed curveball. He homered off his changeup, which ended Nola's outing. From the eye-test standpoint, they were some of the best at-bats he's posted this year.

"I feel like today, first at-bat I got a fortunate hit off a breaking ball," he said about Saturday. "Second at-bat, I hit the ball into the left-center gap off a breaking ball, too. Then the third (at-bat) I got a changeup I didn't miss."

On Sunday, more of the same. Donaldson singled off a slider in the first. His homer came on a first-pitch changeup. He roped a slider for a double in his fourth at-bat.

Donaldson, by his own estimation, is feeling like himself again.

"It's no secret (breaking balls) are what I've been getting a lot of this year," Donaldson said. "It's nice to get in a controlled setting, work on some things (in batting practice). ... It translated, but the great thing about baseball is you get the chance to come do it again tomorrow."

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