Entering Thursday, the Braves were a perfect 4-0 in the postseason — winning four straight games in the playoffs for the first time since 1999. However, that was behind their top two pitchers — Max Fried and Ian Anderson — who have been the only consistent pieces in Atlanta’s rotation this season. With Kyle Wright set to make his first career postseason start, Thursday was a perfect measuring stick to see just how dangerous the Braves are going forward.
Wright faced his first challenge in the opening frame, as a couple of singles put two men on with only one out. However, he was able to strike out Brian Anderson, who had been a thorn in the Braves’ side over the series’ first two games. Then forced a weak ground ball to end the inning.
The Marlins’ 22-year-old phenom Sixto Sanchez was on the mound in Game 3, and he provided the Braves with a golden opportunity in the second inning. A single followed by back-to-back walks loaded the bases with nobody out, but Atlanta could not bring a run across. However, that would not be a trend for the remainder of the game.
Following a quick second inning by Wright, the Braves broke through for four runs in the third. It all started with a walk to Acuña, and once again Travis d’Arnaud delivered the blow that broke the game open — a double off the right-center field wall that brought in two and stretched the Braves lead to three. Swanson then brought in d’Arnaud later in the inning with a sac fly.
The Marlins responded with their most significant threat. Wright walked his second batter of the game to load the bases. Rick Kranitz came out to talk to the rookie, and there had to be a discussion in the dugout whether to pull him with a four-run lead, but Brian Snitker stuck with Wright. Kyle was able to force a groundout to second base to get out of the jam.
From there, it was smooth sailing for the Vandy product. Wright sat the next nine Marlins down in order before Brian Snitker mercifully pulled the plug with the Braves up seven runs, and as expected, the Braves’ bullpen picked up right where they left off yesterday.
A.J. Minter relieved Wright in the seventh and pitched a perfect inning. Jacob Webb made his postseason debut in the eighth, allowing just one hit before retiring the side. Shane Greene came in to close it in the ninth. Greene allowed a LONG Jazz Chisholm double, but he was able to finish the inning without allowing a run and preserved the shutout.
The shutout gives the Braves four shutouts in the first five games — just as everyone expected coming into the postseason. However, this one — led by Kyle Wright — is perhaps the most important. If the Braves are going to make it past the Dodgers or the Padres and win the World Series, they will need more than just Fried and Anderson. Wright proved today he can be that third guy, which makes Atlanta extremely dangerous going forward. The team’s combined 0.91 ERA should put the rest of the league on notice.