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Nationals tighten NL East race with win over Braves

WASHINGTON — Gio Gonzalez ended a personal drought that spanned more than two months — and helped give the Washington Nationals a four-game split with another National League East contender.

Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings for his first victory since May 28, leading the Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.

The Nationals moved within 5 1/2 games of idle NL East leader Philadelphia. The Braves fell a game behind the Phillies.

Gonzalez (7-8) snapped a seven-game losing streak and had gone 11 consecutive starts without a victory. He allowed six hits and one walk while striking out three. Nick Markakis’ solo homer to lead off the second was the lone run he allowed.

Atlanta starter Anibal Sanchez pitched two scoreless innings but left after getting hit in the left calf by a grounder from Michael Taylor. Manager Brian Snitker said he was hopeful Sanchez would make his next start.

Sanchez was replaced by Wes Parsons (0-1), who yielded a bases-loaded walk to Juan Soto and a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rendon as Washington went ahead in the third.

Taylor homered to left in the fourth to bump Washington’s lead to 3-1, and Daniel Murphy added an RBI double in the sixth.

But Parsons worked five innings in his major league debut, vital for a team that had two starters last only two innings during the series in Washington and heads home to face Milwaukee after a 5-3 road trip.

Washington went 7-3 on its home-stand and begins a seven-game trip to face the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis.

PADRES 8, BREWERS 4 Hunter Renfroe hit a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning, his fourth straight game with a home run, and the San Diego Padres rallied for an 8-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. The Padres trailed 4-2 entering the ninth, but rallied against Brewers relievers Corey Knebel and Joakim Soria. Knebel walked the bases loaded and allowed a run-scoring infield single to Travis Jankowski before Soria entered to try to escape the jam. Soria retired Eric Hosmer before Renfroe hammered a 1-2 pitch deep into the left-field bleachers for his grand slam. Renfroe became the first Padres player to hit home runs and have multiple RBI games in four consecutive games. Franmil Reyes added a solo homer to right off Jacob Barnes to cap the Padres’ stunning six-run rally. The Padres, who went 5-20 in July, won four of seven games against the Chicago Cubs and Brewers on their Midwest road trip.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

INDIANS 5, TWINS 4 Michael Brantley’s ninth-inning single gave the Cleveland Indians a 5-4 win over Minnesota on Thursday, their second straight walk-off victory against the Twins. Brantley grounded a 2-1 pitch off Addison Reed (1-6) past a diving Miguel Sano at first base to score Greg Allen, giving Cleveland another dramatic win. Francisco Lindor’s three-run homer in the ninth inning Wednesday gave Cleveland a 5-2 victory. Brantley’s hit set off another celebration as he was mobbed by his teammates after rounding first base. Allen started the rally with a single off Reed and stole second with Lindor batting. Lindor’s groundout to first moved Allen to third. Andrew Miller (2-3) struck out a batter in the ninth. The left-hander made his fourth appearance since missing two months because of an inflamed right knee. Minnesota rallied from a 4-0 deficit against reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Jake Cave’s fifth-inning sacrifice fly scored a run before Jorge Polanco hit first home run of the season — a three-run shot in the sixth — to tie the game. Polanco missed the first 80 games of the season because of a suspension for violating baseball’s drug program.

BLUE JAYS 8, RED SOX 5 Mookie Betts homered in the ninth inning to complete his first career cycle during the Toronto Blue Jays’ 8-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night. Betts is the 21st Red Sox player to hit for the cycle. He singled and scored in the first inning, tripled in the second and doubled in the fourth against starter Ryan Borucki. After walking in the sixth, Betts hit a one-out drive off Ken Giles in the ninth for his 27th homer of the season. Betts is the first Boston player to hit for the cycle since Brock Holt in 2015. Betts, Holt and Leon Culberson in 1943 are the only Red Sox to cycle from the leadoff spot. The AL MVP candidate raised his average to .347 on the season with 59 RBIs and a 1.102 OPS. Boston (81-35) lost for the first time in seven games but still has the best record in baseball. Randal Grichuk hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth inning and Teoscar Hernandez added a solo shot to help Toronto avoid a three-game sweep. Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez hit his major league-leading 35th home run, a solo drive in the fifth.

YANKEES 7, RANGERS 3 Giancarlo Stanton hit the hardest homer ever measured by Major League Baseball’s Statcast system, Neil Walker hit two more home runs and the New York Yankees beat the Texas Rangers 7-3 on Thursday night. Stanton’s 28th homer was measured at 121.7 mph, the fastest long ball tracked by Stat-cast since the system was introduced in 2015. Miguel Andujar and Aaron Hicks also went deep, helping the Yankees win their fourth straight since a five-game skid that included a four-game sweep at AL East-leading Boston. J.A. Happ (12-6) pitched six effective innings in his return from hand, foot and mouth disease.

RAYS 5, ORIOLES 4 Jake Bauers drove in two of his three runs with a go-ahead two-run single in the seventh inning and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 Thursday night. Bauers’ decisive hit off Cody Carroll (0-1) came in the Rays’ franchise-record tying sixth consecutive one-run game. Tampa Bay has played 49 (22-27) one-run games overall, tops in the majors. The Orioles (35-80) open a four-game series tonight against Boston. One victory by the AL East-leading Red Sox would eliminate Baltimore from the contention for the division title. Baltimore had taken a 4-3 lead earlier in the seventh when Renato Nunez hit a solo homer off Yonny Chirinos (1-4), who allowed one run and three hits over five relief innings to get his first major league win.

THURSDAY’S GAMES

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Washington 6, Atlanta 3 San Diego 8, Milwaukee 4 L.A. Dodgers 8, Colorado 5 Pittsburgh at San Francisco, (n)

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Cleveland 5, Minnesota 4 N.Y. Yankees 7, Texas 3 Toronto 8, Boston 5

Tampa Bay 5, Baltimore 4 Seattle 8, Houston 6

NATIONALS 6, BRAVES 3

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