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

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
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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.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.