PHILADELPHIA -- A little more than three years after being rushed into the national spotlight, Kyle Wright returned to Citizens Bank Park and displayed the value of both patience and proper development.
Wright started living up to great expectations this year, and he extended his success while helping the Braves claim a 4-1 win over the Phillies on Wednesday night. His confident approach showed how far he has come since making his first career start on this same mound, three games into the 2019 season.
“I think he is showing his maturity and his confidence,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I just see a totally different guy, and I’ve been seeing that all year. That’s really good to see, because with his arsenal, he should be a very effective pitcher in this league for a long time.”
With Wright’s assistance, the Braves improved to 21-5 in June and moved within three games of the first-place Mets in the National League East. The 21 wins match the most any Braves team has recorded in a month since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.
Adam Duvall homered and Matt Olson added two more doubles to his MLB-high total. But the key performance in this latest victory came from Wright, who scattered three hits and allowed one run over seven innings. It was a nice bounceback after he allowed 11 hits and five runs against the Cubs on June 18, then 10 hits and four runs against the Giants on June 23.
“I feel like I threw the ball well my last couple [turns], but to actually see the results, it was definitely a good one for me,” Wright said.
Wright has posted a 3.03 ERA through his first 15 starts this season, and he has completed at least six innings 11 times. The 26-year-old hurler entered this season having completed fewer than five innings in nine of 14 career starts. He has altered the trajectory of his career and shown why the Braves were so thrilled to take him with the fifth overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft.
Some of this year’s success was foreshadowed during last year’s postseason. After making only two regular-season appearances for Atlanta, Wright was placed on the World Series roster. He struck out the only three batters he faced in a mop-up appearance in Game 2 and then keyed a Game 4 win by coming out of the bullpen with the bases loaded in the first and limiting the damage to one run.
“I’ve always seen it, but I think the first big moment was during last year’s World Series,” Duvall said. “It was comparable to Charlie [Morton] with the sinkers and curveballs. I was playing center behind him and the shape of the pitches were similar. He’s taken a huge step this year.”
Wright issued five walks over 4 1/3 innings when he made his first career start in Philadelphia in front of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball national audience on March 31, 2019. Less than two years removed from his great career at Vanderbilt University, he was forced to begin that season in Atlanta’s rotation because of injuries Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman sustained in Spring Training.
“I’d like to go back and watch video of what I looked like then, because I feel like I’ve made a lot of changes mechanically and with my pitches,” Wright said. “I’ve been on the attack better. I just have a much better understanding of who I am.”
Wright is certainly different than he was when he posted a 6.93 ERA over the 14 starts he made before this season. The slider he was instructed to throw too often in 2020 has become a miniscule portion of his arsenal. He’s also favoring his four-seamer more than his two-seamer and using his curveball as his primary weapon.
But much of Wright’s growth can be attributed to the mental strength he has gained through his journey over the past few years. He didn’t blink when the Phillies loaded the bases in Wednesday’s second inning. He struck out Mickey Moniak to end that threat and begin a stretch in which he retired 16 of the last 19 batters faced.
“He’s come a long way,” Snitker said. “We forced a lot on him before he was ready for most of it, but he’s matured and figured himself out.”