Kyle Wright, Braves top Nationals to take season series

The bottom of the fifth was littered with bad luck for the Braves, allowing the Nationals to take a 4-2 lead. Kyle Wright mitigated the damage — an emphasis in his continued growth — and it allowed his offense to take advantage.

Adam Duvall and Ozzie Albies each hit a two-run homer off Max Scherzer in the sixth, and the slugging Braves topped the Nationals 8-4 in the finale at Nationals Park. The Braves won the season series against the Nationals, 6-4, for the third consecutive season.

Washington opened the fifth with three consecutive hits off Wright, none of which was hard hit. The second knock, from Victor Robles, was a broken bat bloop in front of Ronald Acuna, who was playing deep in center. The third hit was Adam Eaton’s bunt single.

Wright got Trea Turner to ground into a potential double play at second. Albies tagged the base but delivered an errant throw to first. Two Nationals scored for a 4-2 lead.

After intentionally walking Juan Soto, Wright drew another double play ball from Asdrubal Cabrera. The Braves converted that time, avoiding a disastrous inning.

“I feel like at times, when I’ve gotten in trouble, things have continued to speed up and get out of whack, whereas today I was able to make a pitch,” Wright said. “We have a good defense and we were able to turn a double play to get out of that. For me, it’s just about believing you’re always one pitch away and you’re right there and able to get out at any moment.”

As they’ve done so often this season, the Braves quickly turned a deficit into a lead. Nick Markakis' single set up Duvall’s homer, which was his MLB-leading ninth this month. Two pitches later, Austin Riley singled up the middle. Albies homered on the first pitch he saw, ending Scherzer’s day.

“That little sucker is so explosive,” manager Brian Snitker said of Albies. “You just expect something big every time he goes to the plate. He missed a significant amount of time (with injury), but he’ll get it.”

Despite 10 strikeouts, the Braves scored six runs (two homers) on nine hits off Scherzer in 5-1/3 innings. Wright outpitched the three-time Cy Young winner, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits across his six innings.

The Braves became the third National League team to reach 28 wins, joining the Dodgers (32) and Padres (29). They hold the NL’s No. 2 seed with 13 games remaining, meaning they’d host the No. 7 seed (currently San Francisco) in a best-of-three series at Truist Park to begin the postseason.

“There have been some really positive things happen in these last four games here,” Snitker said. “With the rotation, getting Ozzie (back). Guys stepped up today. We had a bunch of mainline guys in the bullpen down.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Notes from Sunday:

- After his first start back from the alternate training site, Wright said he felt he was close. His stats won’t do him justice Sunday. Wright never let the game get away from him, pitching through trouble and delivering strikes. He showed the confidence that he couldn’t consistently harness in his past big-league stint.

“Today I had a good feel for my slider and curveball,” Wright said. “Had some good change-ups at times, left a couple, but for the most part I had a feel of everything. Because of that, my pitches were able to hold the plate longer, my two-seamer was good.”

Wright walked two for the second consecutive start. He was averaging four walks a start over his first four outings before he was optioned to Gwinnett.

It was the second time this season Wright pitched six innings. Only Max Fried (four) and Ian Anderson (three) have done so more. He also earned the first win of his career.

“It’s really cool to know I’ve finally got one,” Wright said. “It definitely took a little longer than I would’ve liked. It was cool to finally get that one and get the monkey off my back.”

Snitker added: “(Wright) is figuring himself out. It’s really good. I’ve had multiple talks with him about how good his stuff is, how good he can be. He doesn’t have to take a backseat to anybody. You saw it today.”

The Braves' rotation is slowly coming together at the perfect time. The postseason is two weeks away. Anderson’s seven innings on Saturday to preceded Wright’s six. Fried is likely to return later this week, while veteran southpaw Cole Hamels is supposed to make his debut Wednesday.

- As Snitker referenced, the bullpen had another excellent game. Tyler Matzek, Darren O’Day, A.J. Minter and Chris Martin combined for four no-hit innings.

- First baseman Freddie Freeman made a heads-up play in the fourth inning. Carter Kieboom popped up to first, but Freeman dropped the ball. The mistake worked in the Braves' favor: He fired to Dansby Swanson at second, who passed to Riley for the double play.

- Nationals Park was once a house of horrors for the Braves. They went 1-19 in Washington across 2015-16. They’ve flipped that record to 19-13 over the past three campaigns, capped by taking three of four this weekend.

- The Braves travel to Baltimore for a three-game series at Camden Yards beginning Monday. Touki Toussaint will start game 1. The team hasn’t announced its starter for Tuesday, but Hamels is expected to make his long-awaited debut in the Wednesday finale.