Wright ties majors wins lead as Braves defeat Nationals, 5-4

Kyle Wright
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WASHINGTON – 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 Garcia 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 Anibal Sanchez, who was making his first appearance since 2020. After Sanchez yielded a walk to start the game, Swanson hit a two-run homer to left.

Sanchez (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.

TRAINER’S ROOM

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.

CLIP ON

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.

TOUGH CHOICE

Washington optioned RHP Mason Thompson to Rochester to make room for Sanchez 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.”

UP NEXT

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.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.