WASHINGTON (AP) — Kyle Wright tied for the major league lead with his 11th victory and the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 5-4 Thursday in the opener of a four-game series.
Michael Harris II, Matt Olson and Dansby Swanson homered for Atlanta, which has won five of its last seven and leads the National League with 142 home runs. The Braves improved to 8-2 against the Nationals this season.
Juan Soto extended his hitting streak to a career-high 16 games for Washington, which has dropped seven in a row and 13 of 14. The Nationals have the worst record in the majors and fell to 7-34 against the NL East.
Wright (11-4) gave up a solo homer to Josh Bell in the first and then loaded the bases to start the second before limiting the damage to Maikel Franco’s RBI grounder. He set down 17 of the last 21 batters he faced in his seven-inning outing, allowing two runs while striking out four.
The right-hander is tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin and Houston’s Justin Verlander for the most victories in baseball. He is also the first Brave to win 11 games before the All-Star break since Jair Jurrjens had 12 in 2011.
“It’s great that I had a good first half, but obviously this is just one half,” said Wright, who lowered his ERA to 2.95. “The second half is going to be even bigger.”
Wright’s only jam after the second came when he allowed back-to-back singles to open the fifth. Soto then ripped a shot to center Harris collected and fired a dart back to the plate on one bounce just up the third base line to nab Luis García at the plate.
“I knew Soto hit it pretty hard so I had a chance to still get him at home,” Harris said. “I got it and threw it as soon as I could, and I guess the rest is history.”
Kenley Jansen gave up Franco’s one-out solo homer in the ninth but struck out Bell with the tying run on second to escape for his 21st save in 25 chances.
Atlanta immediately jumped on Washington starter Aníbal Sánchez, who was making his first appearance since 2020. After Sánchez yielded a walk to start the game, Swanson hit a two-run homer to left.
Sánchez (0-1), activated from the injured list earlier in the day after missing Washington’s first 90 games with a cervical nerve impingement, struggled with command but got through the next three innings unscathed before Harris’ two-run homer in the fifth put Atlanta up 4-2.
Olson homered off reliever Andres Machado in the sixth.
“It was a good ball game,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We hit our homers again.”
Sanchez gave up four runs in five innings and struck out five.
Nationals: LHP Sean Doolittle, on the injured list since April 20, will visit a doctor after experiencing elbow soreness. … RHPs Reed Garrett (biceps inflammation) and Will Harris (pectoral surgery) will throw bullpen sessions and could soon begin rehabilitation assignments. … RHP Victor Arano (left knee inflammation) struck out two in a scoreless inning in a rehab appearance Thursday for Triple-A Rochester. … RHP Stephen Strasburg (ribs) was transferred to the 60-day injured list.
RHP Tyler Clippard pitched two scoreless innings in his first appearance for the Nationals since 2014. The two-time All-Star, who has pitched for nine teams since leaving Washington, was greeted warmly when he entered in the eighth and extended his Nationals record of games pitched to 415.
Washington optioned RHP Mason Thompson to Rochester to make room for Sánchez on the roster. Thompson has not allowed a run in seven appearances, and yielded one hit in five innings since returning from the injured list July 1.
“He wanted to send him out, get him built up, get him to throw back-to-back days, and he really hasn’t done that here,” manager Dave Martinez said. “It gives us a little time to get him stretched out.”
Braves: RHP Ian Anderson (7-5, 4.98 ERA) allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings against Washington on Sunday.
Nationals: LHP Patrick Corbin (4-11, 5.70) is 0-5 with a 9.12 ERA in five starts against Atlanta since the start of the 2021 season.
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