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Ryne Nelson's 7 efficient innings help Diamondbacks handle Nationals, 5-2

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ryne Nelson pitched seven efficient innings, Christian Walker hit his team-high 17th home run in the ninth inning, and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Washington Nationals 5-2 on Thursday.

Randal Grichuk drove in two runs for the Diamondbacks, who took two of three at Washington and have won seven of 10 overall.

Arizona (37-38) has not been at .500 since it was 9-9 on April 16.

“We’re closing in on .500, which isn’t the final destination,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “I’m proud of this team. We’ve taken on a lot this year. I’m saying it a lot and I’m sure everybody is tired of hearing me say it, but we’re missing three-fifths of our starting rotation. What we’ve done is pretty impressive, and we’re just getting better every single day.”

Lane Thomas and Jesse Winker homered for Washington, which was denied its second chance in three days to get back to .500 for the first time since it was 20-20 after the first game of a doubleheader May 14. The Nationals are 36-38.

Nelson (5-5) needed only 70 pitches to breeze through seven innings of three-hit ball, and he allowed two runs without walking a batter. The right-hander struck out two and retired 13 of his last 14 batters to win consecutive starts for the first time this season.

“Watching the last couple games, they seemed very aggressive,” Nelson said. “We didn’t know if they were going to change that game plan or if they were going to stick to it. It was a lot about executing good pitches early in the counts and trying to get them to hit my pitch and get some quick outs and it ended up working.”

Nelson is 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA in his last six outings. He’s dropped his ERA from 7.06 to 5.18 in that span.

“We made early outs,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “These guys all attacked us this series. We have to get ready to hit.”

Paul Sewald handled the ninth for his eighth save. Sewald has pitched 11 2/3 scoreless innings in 13 outings since May 9.

Down 1-0 entering the fourth, Arizona sandwiched a pair of singles around a sacrifice bunt before Tucker Barnhart’s single tied it. Two batters later, Grichuk doubled into the left field corner off MacKenzie Gore to drive in two more runs.

Kevin Newman added a two-out RBI single in the fifth off Gore (6-6), who had won four of his previous five starts. The left-hander allowed four runs and a season-high 10 hits in five innings. He struck out seven.

Thomas ripped Nelson’s 93 mph fastball into the visitor’s bullpen in left-center in the third, and Winker smashed a changeup to deep center with two outs in the sixth. It was Thomas’ fourth home run on Washington’s 4-2 homestand, while Winker went deep for the second consecutive day. Both have eight homers this season.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Diamondbacks: RHPs Zac Gallen (strained hamstring) and Miguel Castro (shoulder) are scheduled to throw simulated games early next week. ... OF Alek Thomas (strained hamstring) will play in Arizona Complex League games Friday and Saturday as part of a rehab assignment. ... OF Corbin Carroll was out of the lineup for rest but entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning.

Nationals: SS CJ Abrams was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day. Martinez said Abrams was day to day with a small ganglion cyst in his left hand. ... RHP Josiah Gray (forearm flexor strain) allowed two runs in five innings while striking out five and throwing 79 pitches Wednesday in a rehab start for Double-A Harrisburg.

UP NEXT

Diamondbacks: LHP Jordan Montgomery (5-4, 6.00 ERA) starts Friday as Arizona begins a three-game series at Philadelphia, its first visit to Citizens Bank Park since winning Game 7 of last year’s NLCS there.

Nationals: LHP DJ Herz (1-1, 3.77), who struck out 13 on Sunday against Miami, will make his first career road start as Washington begins a three-city, nine-game trip Friday at Colorado.

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This story has been corrected. A previous version said Walker’s homer was in the eighth inning, not the ninth.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb