Kyle Wright once again brought a steadying presence to Atlanta’s rotation. This time, he came up with one of his best starts of the year when the Braves needed it the most, as his six shutout innings set the tone for the bullpen and helped push Atlanta to a series-tying 3-0 victory over the Phillies.
The early portion of this game provided us fans a classic nervy Postseason pitcher’s duel. Those are usually intense affairs during the regular season but during the Postseason the drama factor increases about tenfold during these types of games. With a raucous stadium hanging on every pitch, both Kyle Wright and Zack Wheeler lived up to the occasion to start things off. The Phillies entered the hit column first with a double but Wright was able to strand him at third to keep the run column empty.
Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler didn’t have much of a problem making his way through Atlanta’s lineup. The star pitcher didn’t give up a hit (or any baserunners, at that) until the fourth inning, which is when Ronald Acuña Jr. got on with a single. Other than that, the Braves were unable to really crack the code that Wheeler had going for the early stages of this game.
Things finally got going in the sixth inning, which is when the Braves were making it happen both in the field and at the plate. In Kyle Wright’s final inning of the night, Dansby Swanson helped cap off a big-time performance from Wright by making a fantastic over-the-shoulder catch in left-center field (!!!) to slam the door on that inning. Cobb County was alive and rocking after that catch and the good vibes continued after that — but only after a really concerning bump in the road.
That bump came when Ronald Acuña Jr. got hit by a pitch on his right elbow with two out in the bottom of the sixth. Acuña was doubled over and in pain for a few minutes and it surely looked like he was going to be exiting the game. Shockingly, Acuña was able to stay in the game (and was able to finish the game as well) and it’s a good thing that he did because the Braves were able to let him work on the base paths in this frame.
Dansby Swanson worked his way onto first base by taking a walk on a full count, which set the stage for Matt Olson to make something happen with a runner in scoring position and two out. Fortunately, Olson was able to hit a grounder hard enough to go screaming off of Rhys Hoskins’ glove and into right field for a go-ahead RBI single.
The Braves then proceeded to keep the small ball game going over the next two at-bats. Austin Riley hit a soft dribbler to third base that Zack Wheeler was able to field. Unfortunately for the Phillies, he was unable to do anything but field it, so the Braves went up 2-0 on the infield single. That brought Travis d’Arnaud to the plate and he kept the line going when he hit one that rolled over the mound, past second base and into the outfield to make it a three-run lead for the Braves at that point. The sixth inning ended up being Zack Wheeler’s final inning as well and he left with his team behind by three runs.
The game was then placed into the collective hands of Atlanta’s bullpen. A.J. Minter got the ball for the 7th and took care of Philadelphia in short order to get the team to the eighth. Minter was originally going to get another batter in the eighth, but when Phillies manager Rob Thomson subbed in Matt Vierling to replace Brandon Marsh, Brian Snitker countered by going ahead and bringing in Raisel Iglesias.
Iglesias got the job done with little-to-no issue in the eighth inning — he only gave up a single (that was limited to a single thanks to a heads-up defensive play from Eddie Rosario) and Austin Riley even snagged an out for him by making what is very likely the best defensive play of his career so far. Seriously, just watch it and tell me if you’ve seen him do better than that!
With the Braves unable to push any more runs past the plate going into the ninth inning, that meant that Kenley Jansen was getting the ninth in a save situation. Kenley got the first two outs with no problems at all and the final out of the game was actually thrown into question after Travis d’Arnaud made what was seemingly the last out on a foul out from Bryce Harper. However, the umpires ruled that the ball touched the screen behind home plate, so it was ruled a foul ball.
Fortunately, we were all spared the media discourse of having to discuss that play over and over again because Kenley Jansen struck out Bryce Harper to get the save and even up the series at one game apiece.
While going to Philadelphia in an even series with the next two games in hostile territory isn’t super ideal, it’s better than the alternative of absolutely having to win both road games just to stay alive. Instead, the Braves saw what the task was and got the job done. Kyle Wright was outstanding for six innings, the defense stepped up big time (with Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley in particular making incredible plays) and the bullpen once again reached that Postseason standard that we’re all growing accustomed to as Braves fans. All-in-all, this was a a very solid win for the Braves and now they’ve got two more wins to get in order to get one step closer to a World Series repeat.