Sometimes the end result isn’t all that matters, and that was certainly the case after Saturday evening’s 5-0 loss to the Phillies, in which the Braves’ offense picked up just four hits overall.
If you missed last night, you missed out on a hell of an outing by 24-year-old righty Kyle Wright, who — save for a four-run 4th inning — pitched perhaps the best game of his MLB career.
From the beginning, it was clear that Wright brought his A-game Saturday. His fastball was touching 96 mph, and his slider and curveball looked sharp. For the first three innings, Phillies’ batters were unable to do much of anything.
1st inning — 21 pitches
Wright’s pitch count wasn’t quite ideal in the 1st, but it was less to do with Philadelphia’s offense and more to do with the right-hander’s command. Both Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins — the Phillies’ nos. 1-2 batters — went down in short order, as the former flew out to left and the latter grounded out to short. Batting third, outfielder Bryce Harper slapped a ground ball single to right, followed by a walk to catcher JT Realmuto (which, understandably, Wright seemed very hesitant to challenge). After essentially pitching around the hot-hitting Realmuto, Wright went right after shortstop Didi Gregorius and forced a ground out to second to end the inning.
2nd inning — 14 pitches
After throwing a combination of two-seamers, sliders, and curveballs in the opening frame, Wright leaned on his slider in the 2nd inning, once again only facing four Phillies’ batters. Jean Segura batted first and singled, but after a Jay Bruce force-out to second, Wright settled in and struck out both Scott Kingery and Adam Haseley. At this point, just two days after Touki Toussaint wowed us against the Blue Jays, it appeared Wright was due for a big outing.
3rd inning — 8 pitches
Wright peaked during his second try through the top of the Phillies’ batting order, setting down McCutchen, Hoskins, and Harper in order, thanks to a timely double-play to end the inning. The ball never got off the dirt, and despite a bit more issues with his command, Wright was able to keep his slider off the plate enough to prevent any solid contact. He had thrown 43 pitches through three innings and was right on track for at least a quality-start, having allowed just a couple of hits and two walks to go along with two strikeouts.
One bad inning
As is often the case, everything can change in one inning… and that’s what happened to Wright in the 4th on Saturday. Still going with his slider pretty heavily, Wright started off the frame by facing Realmuto, and on the second pitch of the at-bat, the All-Star catcher belted a solo-homer to put the first run on the board.
Wright hung a curveball, and Realmuto made him pay by driving the ball 427 feet over the left-field wall.
Next up was Gregorius, who also went to the left side with a single, and then immediately stole second base. He then reached third, thanks to an error by Travis d’Arnaud.
Just like that, Wright was in a bit of a jam. He then walked Segura before surrendering another home run — this time a 422-foot blast off the bat of Bruce (with what looked like a slider).
Things are happening so fast we can't keep up!
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 8, 2020
Kingery grounded out, Haseley lined out, and McCutchen flew out, but the damage was done. Phillies lead 4-0, and it seemed like that inning Wright had become a bit predictable with his pitch mix, throwing the slider in 8 of his 18 pitches and essentially abandoning his fastball (he threw only two 4-seamers).
Showing some resilience
Even more impressive than his first three innings of work on Saturday was Wright’s ability to maintain a short memory and come back and finish his outing strong, something he hasn’t been able to do thus far in his career (shown by his 7.67 ERA over the last three seasons). The 5th inning featured three up and three down as Wright needed just 14 pitches to set down Hoskins, Harper, and Realmuto. And the 6th was almost identical — also 14 pitches — save for a double by Bruce. Wright’s evening was over after six innings, as manager Brian Snitker went with Grant Dayton to begin the 7th.
Altogether, Wright threw 91 pitches (59 strikes) in those six innings, allowing four runs from six hits and three walks, while striking out three. The Phillies also finished with two homers against the young righty. However, Wright threw 21 of 26 first-pitch strikes and fared much better than his overall line. Dayton and Chad Sobotka finished up the pitching for the Braves, allowing one more run in their two combined innings.
Despite the shut-out loss, there was a lot to like about Wright’s outing Saturday. With an up-to-speed Braves’ lineup, he very well could’ve picked up the win. But it’s hard to complain when the opposing pitcher — Jake Arrieta — allows just three hits and strikes out six (with a very home-friendly strike zone to boot).
Umps aren’t doing Wright any favors
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) August 8, 2020
With no extra-base hits and only two runners in scoring position all game… the Braves’ offense didn’t provide much spark for Wright.
Saturday’s loss drops Wright’s record to 0-2 for the 2020 season, and his ERA remains at an unsightly 6.75 through 12 total innings, but this particular start was a step in the right direction. And regardless, given the Braves’ current rotation woes, I’m pretty sure the team would be more than happy to receive a start like this nine times out of ten. So we’ll see where Wright goes from here. Will he continue to build off his newfound success?… or will he take two steps back in his next outing? Hopefully, it’s the former because, at the moment, the Braves don’t have many alternatives (Our own Chase Irle recently reported that Huascar Ynoa will start Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader).