Riley, Wright pace surging Braves in 4-3 win over Nationals
ATLANTA (AP) — Kyle Wright was in command early in counts, and it made all the difference for the Atlanta Braves starter.
Wright threw a first-pitch strike to 26 of the 28 batters he faced, equating to a first-pitch strike percentage of 92.8. That rate marks the highest by any major league pitcher in a start this season.
“Any time you get strike one, that’s the best pitch in baseball,” Wright said. “From there you don’t have to be as fine and can be aggressive with some stuff. To get that many — I think that’s definitely why I had a good day today.”
Austin Riley homered off Patrick Corbin, Wright pitched seven-plus innings to win his 10th game, and Atlanta held on to beat the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Saturday.
The defending World Series champion Braves, moving a season-high 16 games over .500, improved to 28-8 since June 1, best in the NL over that span. They began the day 2½ games behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.
Atlanta leads the NL with 132 homers, trailing only the New York Yankees (143) for the major league lead.
“It’s fun,” Riley said. “I feel like it’s part of our game. We drive the ball. At any point, anybody in the lineup can send one out, and I think that’s what allows us to stay in games.”
Ronald Acuña Jr. singled before Riley hit his 22nd homer, a two-run shot to left that sailed 422 feet and came off his bat at 108 mph in the first. The Braves have outhomered the Nationals 22-8 in eight head-to-head games this season.
Juan Soto connected for the 17th time and second straight day, his opposite-field shot to left trimming the lead to 2-1 in the third.
Atlanta scored twice to take a 4-1 lead in the fourth. After Riley and Travis d’Arnaud singled, Riley scored from second on a throwing error by shortstop Luis García, and d’Arnaud scored from third on Orlando Arcia’s single.
Riley is batting a major league best .487 over his last 10 games and has multiple hits in eight of those games. His average is up to .278, a big swing after it was .224 through his first 40 games of the season.
Wright (10-4) gave up eight hits and two runs, leaving after he walked Soto to begin the eighth. The Braves are 7-1 over Wright’s last eight starts, and he has a 3.28 ERA over that span.
Wright stranded two runners in the third when Lane Thomas struck out, and he allowed just three runners to get in scoring position. He gave up Yadiel Hernandez’s sixth homer, which sailed 413 feet to center field, to make it 4-2 in the seventh.
Braves manager Brian Snitker was impressed with Wright’s high number of first-pitch strikes.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that,” Snitker said. “It was good. The (defensive) guys behind him were really good. Those guys had a lot of fun. They were involved. Those guys were throwing strikes, and they were ready to make plays. And they did.”
Will Smith allowed Josh Bell’s double that advanced Soto to third in the eighth, and Nelson Cruz cut the lead to 4-3 with a single. A.J. Minter faced five batters in the ninth to earn his third save in five chances, getting Bell to ground out with runners on first and second to end it.
Corbin (4-11) lost his eighth consecutive start against the Braves and has a 7.07 ERA over that span. Corbin’s first career 27 2/3 innings against Atlanta were all scoreless.
Corbin, who had gone 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA with 16 strikeouts and four walks over his previous two starts, was charged with eight hits and four runs in six innings.
“That’s a good team over there, a good lineup,” Corbin said. “I think in the first inning there it was just a bad breaking ball that Riley hit out, but other than that, I feel like I did pretty good.”
Soto has hit safely in 12 straight games and is batting .415 with four doubles, three homers, six RBIs, 14 walks and 12 runs scored over the streak.
Braves 2B Orlando Arcia turned a difficult double play in the third, running from shallow right field in the shift to catch third baseman Riley’s throw and make a jump throw to first. Soto homered in the next at-bat, so Arcia saved a run. … With the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, Nationals 3B Ehire Adrianza moved quickly to his right to stab Dansby Swanson’s liner and end the threat.
Nationals RHP Paolo Espino (02, 3.55 ERA) will face RHP Ian Anderson (7-5, 5.09) in the final game of a three-game series. Since joining the rotation, Espino is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in five starts. Anderson is 1-0 with a 3.37 ERA in two career starts against Washington.
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