Anibal Sanchez is ready to get back on a major league mound for the first time in nearly two years, and the Washington Nationals are more than happy to throw out the welcome mat.

Sanchez is scheduled to start the opener of a four-game series against the visiting Atlanta Braves on Thursday night, his first major league appearance since Sept. 26, 2020.

Sanchez tossed a no-hitter for the Miami Marlins as a rookie in 2006, was the American League ERA leader with the Detroit Tigers in 2013 and won a World Series ring with the Nationals in 2019. He did not appear during the 2021 season.

He signed a minor league deal with the Nationals during spring training, and the 38-year-old right-hander appeared ready to land a spot in the rotation.

A nerve impingement in his neck delayed the start of his season, however.

Sanchez progressed well enough in his rehabilitation that he was penciled in as the starter for the series opener against the Braves, who swept a three-game series against the Nationals in Atlanta last weekend.

“He’s excited about it, he really is, and I’m excited for him,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “He put himself through a lot to get back.”

The Nationals are desperate for a success story, as they have lost six in a row and 12 of 13.

Sanchez has plenty of experience against the Braves and some success, owning an 8-11 record and a 4.67 ERA in 24 career starts.

“He’s been doing this for a long time,” Martinez said. “Obviously, when you get hurt and you’re out for such a period of time, you do get a little frustrated, but he’s been good through the whole process.”

Atlanta plans to send Kyle Wright to the mound for the series opener, and he will try to repeat the success he had against Washington last weekend.

Wright (10-4, 2.97 ERA) allowed three runs and eight hits in seven-plus innings during a 4-3 win against the Nationals on Saturday.

“I pounded the strike zone,” Wright said afterward. “The infield defense was great, couple more double plays today, so I feel like my success is a tribute to the infield defense.”

Wright is 2-1 with a 6.27 ERA in five career appearances against the Nationals, including three starts.

After the Braves swept Washington last weekend, they lost two of three against the visiting New York Mets, most recently falling 7-3 in the rubber game of the series on Wednesday.

A positive that emerged from the latest defeat was the three hits from Atlanta designated hitter Eddie Rosario, who returned last week after missing 2 1/2 months due to an eye injury.

Rosario, the NLCS MVP en route to helping the Braves win the World Series last season, was batting .100 as recently as Friday, but he has raised his average to .149.

“As he’s getting repetitions, he’s starting to get his timing and everything, so that’s very encouraging,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Eddie knows he can hit, it’s just a matter of, I think, repetitions, and getting your timing is all. …

“He’s had good years and he’s a good hitter. He’s a great bat-to-ball guy and I think he just needs at-bats, and he’s getting those and I think you’re seeing the result of it.”

–Field Level Media