On the backs of marvelous performances out of Max Fried and Ian Anderson, the Braves have managed to win all four of their postseason contests and are just one game away from the NLCS. Honorable mention also has to be given to the outstanding bullpen, but if the Braves plan to win the whole thing, they will probably need a lot out of their third and fourth starters, who have yet to make an appearance in these playoffs.
Game 3 will pin Kyle Wright against possibly the Marlins best pitcher, Sixto Sanchez. Six weeks ago, this matchup in the postseason was impossible to imagine for several reasons; mainly because Wright had just made his fourth start of the season against these same Marlins and failed to make it past the third inning thanks to an unsightly six walks & three earned runs.
Shortly after, the Braves demoted Wright in hopes that he would make adjustments at the alternate site and return to the team later in the season, and that’s exactly what happened. On September 8th, the Braves opted to call him back up to start against — who else — the Miami Marlins once again. However, his first appearance back in Atlanta didn’t go exactly as planned.
Wright gave up five earned runs on seven hits and two walks in just four innings. Despite the poor outing, Brian Snitker said after the game that he saw some positives; and the Braves stuck with him. It’s a good thing they did, because he’s been on fire ever since.
Wright’s next time out, he out-dueled Max Scherzer for his first big-league win. It wasn’t perfect; he still gave up four earned runs on eight hits, but he was a victim of some abysmal luck. It was still the kind of outing to give a young pitcher enough confidence to turn the corner, which is exactly what happened in his final two starts.
On September 20th, Wright delivered the best outing of his career — tossing 6.1 scoreless innings against the Mets while allowing just two baserunners (one hit, one walk) and striking out six. The result was his second win of the year, and Wright followed it up with another gem against the Red Sox in which he gave up two earned runs in the deepest start of his career (6.2 innings).
The most significant difference between Wright’s first stint with the Braves this season and his second has not been his stuff — he’s always had that. It has been his control. Walks, as they are with most young pitchers, have been his Achilles’ heel. In his first four starts before his demotion, Wright walked at least three batters. Since returning, he’s only walked more than two one time (his last outing against the Red Sox when he surrendered three free passes).
The Braves couldn’t have imagined a better ending to Wright’s season, and he rightfully earned a spot as the third starter in the rotation. The postseason is a whole different animal, and nobody knows what to expect when he takes the mound this afternoon and on into the playoffs (if the Braves make it to the NLCS).
Atlanta may not need him to be a star today, but if they are going to make it to the World Series, they will need more than just Max Fried and Ian Anderson. Kyle Wright looks like he has the best shot to be that third guy, but if he struggles against the Marlins, the Braves might have to develop another plan next time around.