WASHINGTON — Kyle Wright is just 24 years old, but the Atlanta Braves right-hander was getting tired of waiting for his first victory as a Major League Baseball pitcher.
He doesn't have to worry about that any longer, and Atlanta's underwhelming and beleaguered rotation might be gaining a little more punch from another young arm.
Ozzie Albies and Adam Duvall each hit a two-run homer off a laboring Max Scherzer, and Wright lasted six innings as the Braves rallied to an 8-4 win Sunday afternoon to take three of four in a weekend series with the Washington Nationals, the reigning World Series champions who are far outside the playoff picture.
Wright (1-4), who was 0-7 with a 7.86 ERA in 16 appearances in his MLB career before Sunday, allowed three earned runs, eight hits and two walks, striking out four batters.
"It took a lot longer than expected," he said of his first victory, which came more than two years after his Atlanta debut. "I felt like I kind of got away from myself a little bit. Now I'm slowly getting back to where I need to be. I still have a long way to go, but I definitely like the way I am trending."
Wright, a native of Huntsville, Alabama, who played college baseball at Vanderbilt, threw strikes on 60 of his 96 pitches against the Nationals. He had pitched more than four innings just once in his five previous starts in 2020.
"He's experiencing things and he's figuring himself out," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "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 back seat to anybody, and you saw it today."
The Nationals carried a 4-2 lead into the sixth, and Scherzer had already thrown 104 pitches. Manager Dave Martinez sent the three-time Cy Young Award winner out to start the inning, then stuck with him after Dansby Swanson flied out and Nick Markakis singled.
Two pitches later, Duvall blasted his MLB-leading ninth homer in September. The drive to deep center was his 14th homer overall this season. Martinez still didn't change pitchers, and Austin Riley looped a single to right before Albies lashed his third homer of the year to center.
"I had an extra day coming into the start, got two extra days coming up, bullpen's been taxed, threw five innings, I'm thinking there I need to get through the sixth inning," Scherzer said. "We've got three of the four right-handed hitters coming up, that's an opportunity for me to go out there and try to get through that inning. There's no reason why I should come out of the game after the fifth inning."
Scherzer (4-3) struck out 10 batters while throwing 119 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. He allowed six runs for the first time since yielding seven to the Miami Marlins on April 20, 2019.
"We get to the sixth inning, and it was all about location that inning," Martinez said. "He's our ace. And when you have these conversations and you're watching him and he says he feels good, for me, who else do you want out there in the sixth inning?"
Atlanta improved to 21-0 this season when leading after six innings, while Washington fell to 0-21 when trailing after six. The Braves drove in two runs in the ninth on Marcell Ozuna's single and Travis d'Arnaud's fielder's choice grounder, and four Atlanta relievers combined for three scoreless innings.
Asdrubal Cabrera hit his sixth homer of the year for Washington with a drive to right in the second.
Wright's win came less than 24 hours after another stellar outing by rookie Ian Anderson, who is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA through four starts. Injuries and poor performances by Atlanta's starters have been offset so far by a powerful lineup and a reliable bullpen, but the rotation could be shaping up just in time for the stretch.
"We've gotten some really positive things that happened these last four days here, with the rotation, getting Ozzie back," said Snitker, whose team leads the National League East as it shoots for a third straight division title.
"I like where we're at. Bullpen, it was good to see those guys step up today. We had a bunch of main-line guys down we've been counting on a lot in the bullpen, and those guys did a great job piecing that thing together."
Atlanta, which improved to 8-1 on Sundays this season and has outscored opponents 69-25 on that day, opens a three-game interleague road series at Baltimore on Monday. Right-hander Touki Toussaint (0-1, 7.89 ERA) will face the Orioles for the first time, and Baltimore will counter with righty Jorge Lopez (1-0, 6.38).
Braves lefty Cole Hamels, who signed a one-year deal in December 2019, is listed as the starting pitcher for Wednesday's game. Hamels, working his way back from triceps tendinitis that flared up in spring training, has not yet pitched for Atlanta.