ATLANTA (AP) — Michael Tonkin’s comeback story left the Atlanta Braves smiling after Kyle Wright’s much-anticipated season debut was a disappointment.
Matt Olson and Ozzie Albies homered and the Braves overcame a rocky season debut by Wright to beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-6 on Tuesday night.
Tonkin (1-1) earned his first win since 2016 by pitching three scoreless innings, allowing one hit with three strikeouts in relief of Wright. The 33-year-old Tonkin pitched for Minnesota from 2013-17 before finally earning his way back to the majors this year.
Tonkin’s path back to the majors included stops in Japan, Mexico and the Dominican Republic before a 2022 season at Triple-A Gwinnett. When asked if at any of the stops he ever questioned he could complete his comeback, Tonkin said, “Every step along the way.”
Even so, Tonkin never lost his resolve.
“It’s why I’ve been doing what I did the past five or six years, to get back here,” he said.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Tonkin, who has a 2.16 ERA in four games, has pitched “some really big spots for us when we needed a bridge.”
That was what Atlanta needed after Wright lasted only three innings, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks while hitting two batters as the Reds led 4-1.
“I was thinking it would be great if he could get us through the sixth, and he did,” Snitker said of Tonkin.
Wright opened the season on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. He said his shoulder felt fine but acknowledged his outing “wasn’t pretty.”
“I struggled a little bit with the grip, a little bit with tempo, a little bit with command,” Wright said.
The Braves led 7-4 before Jose Barrero’s two-run homer off Joe Jiménez in the eighth trimmed the lead to one. Barrero had three RBIs.
Nick Anderson pitched a perfect ninth for his first save since 2021.
The Reds sent 10 batters to the plate in the third against Wright, who was 21-5 with a 3.19 ERA to lead the majors in wins in 2022. Wright allowed four runs and walked three batters in the inning.
Wright hit Tyler Stephenson with a pitch for the second time in as many at-bats to force in a run, and his bases-loaded walk to Barrero pushed home another run. Spencer Steer drove in two runs with an infield single, with Jake Fraley’s slide across the plate beating Olson’s throw from first.
Reds right-hander Luis Cessa (0-1) couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead. Ronald Acuña Jr. had a run-scoring single in the third before Albies’ two-run homer was the big hit in a three-run fourth.
Cessa allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings.
ANOTHER CLOSE LOSS
The Reds suffered their fourth one-run loss in 10 games, including back-to-back nights against the Braves.
“It seems like we’re in every game with a chance to win and haven’t been able to pull any of them out,” said Steer, who set a career high with three hits. “I think if we keep staying in these ballgames we’re going to learn from this and start winning.”
Albies’ homer was the 100th of his career. Sam Hilliard’s double drove in Marcell Ozuna later in the fourth to give Atlanta a 5-4 lead.
Olson’s first-inning homer carried 448 feet into the right-center stands and had an exit velocity of 118.6 mph.
Braves RHP Ian Anderson will have Tommy John surgery after tests revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Anderson, 24, began the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. He struggled with control problems in spring training and in his only start at Gwinnett. He won 10 games for Atlanta in 2022 after playing a key role in the team’s 2021 World Series championship. … LHP Max Fried (hamstring) handled fielding drills with no issue in what Snitker described as “a good step forward” in his rehabilitation. Fried has continued to throw since he was placed on the IL on April 4, retroactive to April 1, and is not expected to need a minor league rehab stint before returning to the active roster.
Reds RHP Hunter Greene (0-0, 5.63) will look for his first win of 2023 in Wednesday night’s final game of the three-game series against RHP Spencer Strider (1-0, 2.45). Greene, who was Cincinnati’s opening-day starter, has yet to complete five innings in two starts.
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