Riley, Wright lead Braves past Astros 6-2 in World Series rematch

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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ATLANTA – Austin Riley hit a three-run homer off Lance McCullers Jr., Kyle Wright won his 15th game to tie for the NL lead, and the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros 6-2 on Friday night in the teams’ first meeting since last year’s World Series.

The defending champion Braves have won 10 of 11 and are 51-20 since June 1, best in the majors over that span. AL-leading Houston had won six of eight and 10 of 15. The Astros are 41-21 since June 12.

Houston left fielder Yordan Alvarez left the game in two outs in the bottom of the fifth. He reported feeling ill and was taken to a hospital for evaluation. Alvarez is second in the AL in homers with 31 and leads the league in on-base percentage.

Wright (15-5) was making his first start since Aug. 10 because of arm fatigue. He erased a one-out walk in the third on Jose Altuve‘s double-play grounder and stranded Kyle Tucker, who tripled with two outs in the sixth, by retiring Trey Mancini on a comebacker. Wright allowed two runs and six hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in six innings.

After taking three of four this week from the NL East-leading New York Mets, the Braves took a 3-0 lead in the third when Riley hit his 31st homer an estimated 409 feet to right-center. Riley’s 67 extra-base hits lead the majors.

Houston, which was coming off a 21-5 victory at the Chicago White Sox, missed a chance at an inning-ending double play on Dansby Swanson‘s single when second baseman Altuve couldn’t handle shortstop Jeremy Pena’s flip throw at second and the ball bounced away.

Riley is the only player in the majors with at least 30 homers and 30 doubles. Swanson, who went 3 for 5 with two RBIs, began the game ranked second in the majors with 104 hits since May 23. He is batting .323 in that span.

McCullers (1-1) allowed three runs and seven hits with three walks and six strikeouts in five innings. He was making his second start since missing last year’s ALCS and World Series and the first 119 games of this season with a right flexor tendon strain.

The Astros scored twice in the fifth to trim the lead to 3-2. Tucker hit his 22nd homer, a 445-foot shot to right-center. Wright gave up singles to Mancini and Chas McCormick before Altuve drove in Mancini with a single to left.

Phil Maton gave up a leadoff double to Michael Harris II in the sixth and walked Ronald Acuna Jr. before Swanson doubled off the wall in right-center to score both runners and make it 5-2. Matt Olson followed with a sacrifice fly.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: Chas McCormick shifted to left when Alvarez departed, and Mauricio Dubon took over in center. … Dubon tried to stay in the game after crashing into the fence in right-center on Swanson’s double in the sixth. A trainer came out to see about Dubon, who soon left the game with left elbow discomfort. Jake Meyers took his place. … Manager Dusty Baker said the groin injury to INF Aledmys Diaz isn’t as bad as the team originally thought. Diaz was placed on the injured list on Wednesday.

WELCOME BACK

Astros LHP Will Smith returned to his former ballpark and faced four batters in the seventh. Smith was dealt to Houston at the trade deadline for RHP Jake Odorizzi.

NOT CAPACITY

Though both teams are in playoff contention, there were several thousand empty seats at Truist Park. The Braves announced a crowd of 42,837 and their 30th sellout of the year.

UP NEXT

Braves RHP Spencer Strider (7-4, 3.04 ERA) will face Cristian Javier (7-8, 2.96) as the teams play the second game of a three-game series.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.