Meneses’ 8th-inning HR snaps Braves’ 5-game winning streak

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ATLANTA – Brian Snitker wants the Atlanta Braves to pay closer attention when they’re running the bases.

A fifth straight postseason awaits the defending World Series champions, and the Atlanta manager knows the team can’t afford to make mistakes on the basepaths.

“As a baserunner, you have to zero in on the guy in front of you and nobody else because he might fall, he might not see things the way everybody else does,” Snitker said. “Your main focus is the guy in front of you when you’re running the bases, and we weren’t real aware in some situations today.”

Joey Meneses hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Jesse Chavez in the seventh inning, and the Washington Nationals stopped the Braves’ five-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on Wednesday as Atlanta cost itself with poor baserunning.

Ronald Acuna Jr. drove in an early run and scored another for Atlanta, which clinched a postseason appearance a night earlier.

Atlanta trailed by a run in the eighth when Michael Harris II hit a one-out single to right with Austin Riley on second and William Contreras on first. Third base coach Ron Washington held up Riley, who had rounded third, but Contreras was nearly at third and was thrown out returning to second by catcher Tres Barrera, who had received the throw from right fielder Lane Thomas.

“Wash was giving me a go the whole time and then at the last second put up the stop sign, and I think at that point Contreras was already there,” Riley said. “It’s tough. It happens.”

Snitker said the Braves held a meeting about baserunning on Tuesday to go over the intricacies of staying alert.

“It’s just when your playing close games, those are the things you can control,” Snitker said. “There’s so many things in this game you can’t control, but we can control our baserunning. It’s the awareness more than anything. We talk about it a lot. We show them different videos and different angles.

“Most of them are visual learners. We do that quite a bit.”

Atlanta remained one game behind the NL East-leading New York Mets, who lost 6-0 at Milwaukee. The Braves had won 10 straight home games, outscoring opponents 47-16.

Atlanta is 52-26 at Truist Park, with only one remaining three-game series against the Mets from Sept. 30-Oct. 2. The Braves are a big league-best 71-29 since May 31.

Meneses put the Nationals up 3-2 with his 10th homer, a 420-foot drive to left for the 30-year-old rookie. He leads last-place Washington with 57 hits, 10 homers and 25 RBIs since his major league debut on Aug. 2.

“I can’t say enough about what Joey has done for us since he’s been here,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s been hitting balls, doubles, homers, getting on base, but today was all about the team. We came out with a victory.”

Andres Machado (2-0) pitched a scoreless sixth, Carl Edwards Jr. escaped a jam with a runners on first and third in the eighth when Eddie Rosario lined out and Kyle Finnegan pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save in 15 chances.

Chavez (4-2) gave up one run and one in two-thirds of an inning.

Atlanta took advantage of Paolo Espino‘s erratic throws to first base to make it 1-0 in the first. Acuna led off with a single, advanced to second on a throwing error by Espino on a pickoff attempt and scored when Contreras reached on an infield single and Espino threw wildly to first again.

Atlanta had won 11 of 12 against the Nationals and began the day 26-8 in the series since the start of last year.

Bryce Elder gave up one run with two walks and six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings for the Braves.

“He went into the sixth and gave us a chance to win the game,” Snitker said. “I thought he did a really good, solid job. He pitched around some different things, but it was solid, very solid.”

Elder stranded a runner in scoring position in the third. He hit Josh Palacios with a pitch in the fifth, and Palacios advanced to third on Barrera’s single before Thomas’ sacrifice fly trimmed the lead to 2-1.

Espino gave up four hits and two runs – one earned – in four-plus innings. He has a 4.94 ERA in 17 starts.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals DH Nelson Cruz missed his seventh straight game with eye inflammation.

NICE MOVES

Washington center fielder Victor Robles ran forward to his left to make a diving catch of Acuna’s fly, stood up and threw accurately to first to double up Vaughn Grissom and get a double play in the fifth. … The Nationals ended the bottom of the seventh with a double play when Dansby Swanson struck out and Grissom was caught stealing. …. Thomas got his eighth assist. … Harris ran hard to his right to make a shoestring catch in left-center in the bottom of the eighth.

UP NEXT

Nationals: After an off day Thursday, RHP Josiah Gray (7-9, 5.14 ERA) will face a yet-to-be determined pitcher for the Marlins as Washington opens a three-game series at Miami.

Braves: LHP Max Fried (13-6, 2.52) will face Ranger Suarez (9-5, 3.53) as Atlanta opens a four-game series at Philadelphia. Fried has no decision with a 3.50 ERA in three starts against the Phillies this year.

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.