THE ONLY 20-game game winner in the major leagues came through in the Atlanta Braves’ time of need on Wednesday.
Kyle Wright pitched six scoreless innings as the Braves beat the visiting Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 to even their National League Division Series (NLDS) at one game apiece.
The Phillies won the opener 7-6 on Tuesday, and with the second game scoreless into the sixth inning, they had thoughts of heading home with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Wright (1-0) made sure that didn’t happen.
The 27-year-old right-hander, who went 21-5 during the regular season, allowed two hits and one walk while striking out six. He threw 83 pitches, 52 of them for strikes. It was his seventh scoreless start of the year.
While the Braves were winning a World Series championship last year, Wright made just two postseason appearances. Both came in relief during the Fall Classic against the Houston Astros, when he pitched to a 1.59 ERA.
“I had success in the postseason last year, but to do it as a start, that was pretty cool to me,” Wright said. “I think I’ve worked on a lot of things this year. Really just goes back to confidence.
“I feel I had the confidence to pitch at this stage. (The Phillies have) a really good lineup and I knew that. But I knew if I executed then I was going to give myself a chance, and I really believe that.”
The Braves’ bullpen closed out a three-hitter. A.J Minter pitched a perfect seventh, Raisel Iglesias worked around a hit in the eighth and Kenley Jansen retired the side in order in the ninth to earn a save. It was Jansen’s 20th career postseason save.
Atlanta produced all three of the game’s runs in the sixth inning on two-out RBI singles from Matt Olson, Austin Riley and Travis d’Arnaud.
The series moves to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Saturday. The two teams split 10 games in Philadelphia this year. Game 5, if necessary, would be back in Atlanta on Sunday.
The start of Game 2 was delayed by 2 hours, 55 minutes after heavy rain moved into the Atlanta area in the morning.
“To weather the rain delay and the way (Wright) went about it was huge for us,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We need to be able to get to our back-end guys. What he did tonight was pretty impressive.”
The Braves were able to defeat nemesis Zack Wheeler (0-1), who beat the Braves twice during the regular season. In six innings, the Atlanta-area native gave up three runs on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
Wheeler didn’t allow a hit until Ronald Acuna Jr.’s leadoff single in the fourth inning and was in a groove until the sixth inning. After retiring the first two batters, the momentum changed when he hit Acuna with a pitch on the arm. Wheeler had to wait several minutes while trainers attended to Acuna, who was able to remain in the game.
“That may have sparked something in the crowd, in the dugout,” Atlanta’s Austin Riley said. “That fight and knowing anything can happen at any time.”
Wheeler wasn’t the same when the game resumed. After Dansby Swanson walked, Olson lined a single to right that glanced off the glove of first baseman Rhys Hoskins and allowed Acuna to score.
Swanson scored on Riley’s infield hit, a perfectly placed soft roller up the third base line, and d’Arnaud singled to center to plate Olson and complete the three-run rally.
“I thought Wheels was outstanding,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said. “He had everything going. I don’t whether the hit batsman threw him off a little bit, but he walks Swanson and then there’s a play we should make, and then an infield hit and another hit up the middle. So just kind of unraveled.”
The Atlanta defense turned in two stellar plays. Swanson, the shortstop, made a running, over-the-shoulder catch to end the sixth inning. Riley, the third baseman, ran down a foul ball in the eighth inning and caught it after crashing into the tarp and falling down.
“Dansby’s catch was unbelievable and Austin’s, too, on the tarp,” Snitker said. “They could be showing both of those for the next year. They were unbelievable plays.” — Reuters