Filling in for lefty Drew Smyly (yet another Braves starter now on the injured list), righty Kyle Wright pitched solidly in his 2021 debut in Friday’s day-game versus the Cubs. Working 4 ⅓ innings, requiring just 78 pitches overall (46 strikes), the Alabama native pitched around two runs (one home run) from three hits and two walks, including five strikeouts. With Atlanta’s starting rotation in the midst of an unstable stretch, Wright’s respectable performance on Friday was plenty good enough to give the team a chance to win. And they did.
Even better, there appeared to be quite a few notable improvements for the 25-year-old who has struggled mightily thus far in his 60+ big league innings.
Wright’s most successful offering in his start on Friday was no doubt his 87-MPH slider, a pitch he leaned on throughout the entire outing. The slider, which Wright threw 24 times (the most of any pitch), generated 12 swings in all, six of which resulting in a whiff; and perhaps his filthiest one was a swinging strike three against Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo in the third inning, in which the Braves righty spun slider in on the slugger’s hands (the “Dead Zone” as they say).
Kyle Wright, Wicked 89mph Dead Zone Slider. ☠️ pic.twitter.com/BPwCjfxMTE
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 16, 2021
And though his slider was probably enough to keep him out of trouble on Friday, Wright complimented the pitch nicely with a heavy dose of four-seam fastballs up at the top of the zone, with a top-velocity of 96.2 MPH. The whole outing featured Wright sitting in the mid-90s with the heater, and thanks to his on-point slider, it served its purpose of keeping Chicago’s hitters honest.
Wright wasn’t perfect, even wild at times. And what looked to be a failed curveball against Cubs catcher Willson Contreras in the fifth, appeared to be a friendly reminder that Wright still isn’t quite all the way there yet.
Willy hits back.@BinnysBev pic.twitter.com/e7v3lTKUEu
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 16, 2021
But for once it was nice to see the other team making hard contact… only to result in an out; Wright allowed four batted-ball outs on Friday that registered 95+ MPH in exit-velocity, with all but one listed as hits that were above a .300 expected AVG, per Statcast.
"I think I did a really good job of settling down, making pitches when I did."
Kyle Wright comments on his performance after his unexpected start. pic.twitter.com/5CZKS0aH9l
— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) April 16, 2021
All in all, it was a good day for Wright and the Braves. To supplement his strong outing on the mound, the righty also doubled in one of his two at-bats. And Atlanta’s bullpen must’ve been inspired by Wright’s efforts on Friday. Five Braves relievers worked the win, featuring seven strikeouts in 5 ⅔ scoreless frames, even though closer Will Smith scared us all with three walks to load the bases.
Hopefully the young stud, Huascar Ynoa, can keep the strong pitching going in Game 2 on Saturday, because this team sure is fun when both the offense and pitching is going good.
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