Kyle Schwarber debuts, leads Nationals over Cardinals 5-2

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ST. LOUIS — Kyle Schwarber doubled in a run in his delayed Nationals debut, Andrew Stevenson had a pinch-hit homer and Washington beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2 Monday night.

Schwarber, Josh Bell and Josh Harrison were in the starting lineup after being sidelined for Washington’s first six games by a coronavirus outbreak that prompted the postponement of the team’s season-opening series and left the club short-handed. The Nats ended a five-game skid, while the Cardinals have lost three straight.

Stevenson hit his first homer of the season into St. Louis’ bullpen in right field to lead off the seventh, putting Washington ahead 4-2. The solo shot was just his fourth homer in 221 career at-bats.

Kyle Finnegan (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings, giving up a run on one hit. He also struck out two.

Schwarber, acquired in the offseason after being nontendered by the Chicago Cubs, hit a 1-0 pitch from starter John Gant into right-center to drive in Juan Soto, who singled to start the sixth.

The Nationals added a run on the next pitch off reliever Giovanny Gallegos when Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly in foul territory to right, driving in Bell.

Gant (0-1) went five innings and gave up three runs. He allowed six hits, struck out four and walked three.

The Nationals had a chance to blow the game open when the first four batters reached to start the eighth against reliever Andrew Miller, including Castro singling in Bell. Ryan Helsley struck out Yan Gomes, and pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman flew out to center fielder Dylan Carlson, who threw Schwarber out at home to end the inning.

Yadier Molina hit his second homer of the season in the sixth to pull the Cardinals within 3-2.

Matt Carpenter broke an 0 for 12 start to the season with a bunt single in the third and scored on Tommy Edman‘s hit, tying the game at 1. Carpenter has struggled at the plate since spring training with just two hits in 37 at-bats, including 13 strikeouts.

Victor Robles led off the game with his second triple of the season and scored on Soto’s one-out single to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

TRAINERS ROOM

Nationals: Schwarber, Bell and Harrison were reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list before the game. The moves make the team’s roster nearly whole again after an outbreak sidelined nine players and postponed four games. Five players returned over the weekend; the only one still missing is LHP Jon Lester, who will ramp up at the team’s alternate training site before joining the Nationals. Manager Dave Martinez said most of the players on the team were vaccinated at their hotel in St. Louis.

Cardinals: St. Louis is closer to having two of its starting pitchers back from the IL. LHP Kwang Hyun Kim (back tightness) threw 86 pitches Sunday, and manager Mike Schildt said everything looked good for him to get back to the club soon, though he didn’t give a timeline. … Shildt also said the progress of RHP Miles Mikolas (shoulder stiffness) is on target. He threw a bullpen session Monday at Busch Stadium. He’ll throw another in a few days after which the Cardinals will determine if he’s ready to face hitters.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 0.00 ERA) starts Tuesday. He gave up one hit while striking out eight over six scoreless innings in a 2-0 loss in the second game of a doubleheader April 7 against Atlanta.

Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty (1-0, 5.23 ERA) gets his third start of the season and is coming off a strong outing at Miami, where he gave up one hit and struck out six in six shutout innings.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.