The Braves lost their second straight game to the Rays yesterday, and it was a similar story to Monday night, as the back end of the rotation continues to be a cause for concern.
Rookie Kyle Wright, Atlanta’s fourth-ranked prospect, got the start after winning the final spot in the rotation out of camp, and for a moment, he instilled some hope into Braves country. His fastball was pounding the strike zone, and his offspeed stuff looked unhittable, leading to a couple of strikeouts and two quick scoreless innings. But in the third frame, Wright imploded.
It started with a leadoff walk, which always seems to result in at least one run, but Wright was able to retire the next two batters in order. He appeared well on his way to another comfortable inning after getting two early strikes on Brandon Lowe, but he eventually lost him and then walked Yandy Diaz on four straight to load the bases. Against a fantastic offense like Rays, you better count your blessings if you expect to get away with three free passes in one inning. From there, Tampa Bay singled Wright to death. Three in a row led to four runs before Snitker finally pulled the plug and replaced him with Josh Tomlin, who let another cross the plate on a wild pitch before getting out of the inning.
Wright’s final line: 2.2 innings, 5 ER, 3K, 3BB
Yesterday’s outing was eerily similar to what we saw last year when the Braves gave Wright the job to start the season. The stuff is there. There’s no question about that, but the untimely walks lead to big innings and high pitch counts. He had an 8.69 ERA in seven appearances for the Braves last year (four starts), but the sample size was minuscule. He only pitched 19.2 innings before he was sent back to Gwinnett, which — at that time — was the right decision. But this season, the Braves don’t have that luxury.
Outside of Mike Soroka and Max Fried, Atlanta is desperate for someone in the rotation to step up. Sean Newcomb continued to look indecisive as a starter on Sunday night. They just DFA’d Mike Foltynewicz. How many more chances can they give Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson? Jhoulys Chacin? Perhaps he’s the next Anibal Sanchez, but I wouldn’t count on it.
If the Braves are going to have any chance to compete in the postseason, one of their young arms must step up. And from what I saw last night — even though he surrendered five earned runs — Kyle Wright has the best shot of doing that. His stuff is crazy good; he just needs to trust it. Perhaps that confidence will come from management sticking with him.
It’s time for the Braves to let Wright sink or swim. Give him the job for good, let him work the kinks out, and hope by the end of the season he can be relied on as a number 3 or 4 in the rotation. Eventually, the Braves will have to find out what this kid is made of, and they don’t have any better options right now.