Wright wins 20th, Braves beat Phillies to trim NL East deficit

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA – Kyle Wright became the first 20-game winner in the majors this season and the Atlanta Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 on Saturday to stop a three-game losing streak.

William Contreras and rookie Michael Harris II each homered and had three hits for the Braves (94-58), who moved within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Mets in the NL East. New York lost 10-4 at Oakland.

The Mets and Braves play three games in Atlanta next weekend.

Bryce Harper hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning for Philadelphia (83-68), which began the day a half-game ahead of San Diego for the second NL wild card and 2 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee for the final spot.

The 26-year-old Wright went 5 1/3 innings and became the first Braves pitcher to win 20 games since Russ Ortiz won 21 in 2003. Wright is the seventh 20-game winner for the Braves since they moved to Atlanta in 1966, also joining Denny Neagle and four Hall of Famers: John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Phil Niekro and Tom Glavine.

Wright (20-5) ran a high pitch count but didn’t allow a hit until Rhys Hoskins doubled with one out in the sixth. Harper followed with his 18th homer, ending the shutout bid and chasing Wright.

Philadelphia scored an unearned run in the seventh and had the potential tying run at the plate with two outs when A.J. Minter struck out Hoskins on a 3-2 fastball. Kenley Jansen earned his 37th save with a clean ninth inning.

Atlanta generated its offense early, taking advantage of Bailey Falter’s inability to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. The Braves got six runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings against Falter (5-4), handing the left-hander his first loss since July 24.

Contreras hit his 20th homer in the third. Harris added a two-run drive, his 19th, in the fourth. Vaughn Grissom and Travis d'Arnaud both had two hits for Atlanta.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: Rookie RHP Spencer Strider (strained left oblique) was placed on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 21, and will miss the rest of the regular season. His status for the playoffs is uncertain. … OF Ronald Acuna Jr. (back) sat out for a third straight day. He is day-to-day.

Phillies: OF Nick Castellanos (right oblique strain) will not go out on a minor league rehab assignment and will likely be activated off the IL next week when the Phillies begin a nine-game road trip in Chicago. Castellanos was added to the injured list Sept. 4.

UP NEXT

The regular-season finale between the NL East rivals is Sunday, with Atlanta sending RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.09 ERA) to the mound against RHP Kyle Gibson (10-7, 4.71).

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.