Wright wins 19th, Riley and Rosario homer, Braves beat Nationals

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ATLANTA – Kyle Wright didn’t exactly feel sluggish, just not quite on top of his game.

Even so, his performance, which Wright said was just “OK,” was good enough to move him closer to 20 wins.

“The more times I can go out there and pitch as long as I can, however long that may be, and hopefully give us chance to win – that’s what I think I’m the most proud of,” he said. “There’s just a lot more confidence when I take the mound.”

Wright won his major league-leading 19th game, Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario homered and the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 5-2 on Monday night.

The defending World Series champions won their ninth straight home game to improve to 92-55. Atlanta remained one game behind the first-place Mets in the NL East after New York won 7-2 at Milwaukee to clinch a playoff spot.

Wright (19-5) won his sixth consecutive decision, allowing two runs and eight hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in six innings. The Braves improved to 22-6 in Wright’s starts this season, including seven straight wins. Wright threw 64 of 88 pitches for strikes.

“He’s been sharper, but you’re doing something right when you win that many games and you’re keeping your club in there, and it’s not going to be just without flaws or smooth sailing all of the time,” manager Brian Snitker said. “And probably most of the time not. And the fact that you can maneuver and do things when you’re not hitting on all cylinders is what winners do.”

Riley hit his 37th homer, second-best in the NL, and his eighth against the Nationals in 14 games this year. He went deep in the first off Cory Abbott, his 368-foot shot barely clearing the wall in left field. Rosario connected off Steve Cishek to make it 5-2 in the seventh, his fifth homer traveling 392 feet to right.

Last-place Washington dropped to 51-96 and lost for the seventh time in nine games.

“They’re getting an opportunity to play and they’re showing me some things I want to see, and they’re doing well,” manager Dave Martinez said. “We’re looking for players, right? Come spring training, these guys can make a good case for themselves.”

Wright is 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three starts this year against the Nationals. The No. 5 overall draft pick of 2017 gave up a single in the first, the second and the fourth but didn’t allow a runner into scoring position until Ildemaro Vargas doubled to begin the fifth.

Vargas advanced on C.J. Abrams‘ single and scored on Victor Robles‘ sacrifice fly. Wright issued his lone walk before Alex Call doubled to drive in Abrams to trim the lead to 4-2. Wright gave up singles to Joey Meneses and Vargas in the sixth but struck out Riley Adams to end the threat.

Jesse Chavez faced the minimum in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the eighth – his 18th consecutive scoreless appearance – and Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 35th save in 42 chances.

The Braves scored three runs in the fourth. Riley walked and advanced on a double by Matt Olson that ended an 0-for-22 stretch, then scored on Travis d'Arnaud‘s single. Michael Harris II followed with an RBI single. He stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error by Adams and scored on William Contreras‘ sacrifice fly.

Olson began the game with four hits in his last 66 at-bats dating to Aug. 28.

“It hasn’t been the easiest go for me personally, but it’s a crazy game and you just stay on top of stuff,” he said. “We’ve been winning some games and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. Trying to get it going in the right direction. A good baby step.”

Atlanta has outscored opponents 39-12 during its home winning streak. The Braves last won nine straight as part of a modern era-record 13-game home winning streak in 2019. At 51-25 at home, the Braves are second in the NL in home winning percentage.

Facing Atlanta for the first time, Abbott (0-3) allowed four runs and six hits in four innings, his ERA rising 51 points to 5.70 in seven starts this season.

Meneses went 4 for 4, each of his hits a single.

The Braves improved to 11-3 against Washington this season.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: Martinez said DH Nelson Cruz (eye inflammation) is doing better after taking eye drops but might need a couple more days before he rejoins the lineup. … LHP MacKenzie Gore (left shoulder inflammation) will throw a bullpen Tuesday. If that goes well, he will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester. … C Keibert Ruiz (testicular contusion) and RHP Cade Cavalli (right shoulder inflammation) are traveling with the team but aren’t expected to return this season. … RHP Victor Arano (right shoulder strain) played catch.

STERLING SEASON

Wright is bidding to become the first Braves pitcher to lead the NL in wins since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003. The last Atlanta pitcher to lead the majors in wins was Tom Glavine in 2000. The Hall of Famer won 21 times that year.

UP NEXT

Braves RHP Charlie Morton (8-6, 4.17 ERA) will face LHP Patrick Corbin (6-18, 6.11) as the teams play the second game of a three-game series Tuesday.

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.