ATLANTA (AP) — Aníbal Sánchez finally found the form that made him successful in 2018.
The discovery helped him finally land his first win of the season in near-perfect fashion.
Sánchez allowed one hit in six scoreless innings, Howie Kendrick hit a three-run double and the Washington Nationals withstood a grand slam by rookie Austin Riley to beat the Atlanta Braves 14-4 on Wednesday night.
Sánchez (1-6) made a triumphant return to Atlanta, where he thrived last season. He allowed one hit and one walk with seven strikeouts.
“That was the Braves’ Sánchez that I played behind tonight,” said Washington first baseman Matt Adams, who homered and drove in three runs.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez also thought Sánchez showed his 2018 form by working the bottom half of the strike zone.
“He mixes all his pitches up,” Martinez said. “He was very effective. That’s what I saw last year from Anibal, everything down in the zone.”
Juan Soto also homered for Washington , which swept the two-game series and ended Atlanta’s streak of five straight series victories. The Nationals have won five of six.
Sánchez was perfect through 5 1/3 innings until Ozzie Albies singled to the gap in right-center. Sánchez then walked Charlie Culberson before recording two straight outs.
Sánchez said he was thinking about a no-hitter after striking out Tyler Flowers to start the sixth after the right-hander was behind in the count.
“I came back to strike him out and I think ‘OK, I have a chance,'” Sánchez said. “… Next pitch, base hit.”
Sánchez came off the injured list before the game after recovering from a strained left hamstring. He had a 5.10 ERA through his first nine starts.
Right-hander Kyle McGowin, who replaced Sánchez, gave up four straight hits, including a grand slam to Riley, to open the seventh.
Riley said the Braves waited too late in the game to start hitting.
“You’ve got to come out and play the whole nine,” Riley said.
Washington’s hitters didn’t hesitate.
The Nationals went through their full lineup in each of the first two innings. Washington had five hits, including consecutive run-scoring singles by Adams, Kurt Suzuki and Victor Robles, in the four-run first.
The Nats scored four more runs in the second. Anthony Rendon’s two-run triple over right fielder Nick Markakis was followed by Soto’s line-drive single up the middle, knocking Kevin Gausman out of the game.
Gausman (2-4) gave up eight runs, matching his career high, on eight hits and two walks while recording only three outs. The right-hander faced four batters without recording an out in the second. His ERA climbed from 4.33 to 5.56.
Soto led off the fourth with a homer to left-center off Touki Toussaint. Soto has a 13-game hitting streak. He drove in two and scored four runs. Adams drove in three.
Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right shoulder strain) has been shut down from throwing due to continued shoulder soreness. He was placed on the injured list on May 21. … RHP James Bourque was optioned to Triple-A Fresno to clear a roster spot for Sanchez.
LIFE OF RILEY
Riley has seven homers and 20 RBIs in his first 14 games. The seven homers are the second-highest total for a player’s first 14 games. Colorado’s Trevor Story had eight in 2016.
Riley had two hits and is batting .375. He became only the second Atlanta player to hit a grand slam in his first 14 games, after Marcus Giles on May 15, 2005 against Colorado.
2021 ALL-STAR GAME FOR ATLANTA
Before the game, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the 2021 All-Star Game will be played at SunTrust Park. A group of former Braves All-Stars who gathered for the announcement included five Hall of Famers: Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones, Phil Niekro, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
Nationals: Following a day off Thursday, the Nationals will open a weekend series at Cincinnati on Friday when LHP Patrick Corbin (5-2, 2.85) is scheduled to face RHP Tyler Mahle (1-5, 4.15).
Braves: The Braves, off Thursday, will remain home to open a three-game series against Detroit on Friday night. RHP Mike Foltynewicz (1-3, 5.67) is scheduled to face RHP Spencer Turnbull (2-4, 2.97).
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