Wright baffles Mets in 6 1/3-inning, 1-hit gem

September 20th, 2020

was bound to right himself before the postseason arrived. But the fact has also started the regular season’s home stretch on a good note gives the Braves even more reason to be excited about what October might bring.

Acuña’s solo homer provided all of the necessary support for Wright, who constructed a career-best start in the Braves’ 7-0 win over the Mets on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. The right-hander’s confidence has grown significantly as he’s used his past two starts to show he has the potential to lessen concerns about the postseason rotation.

“He’s been tremendous,” said catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who hit a two-run double in the eighth inning. “His demeanor on the mound and his demeanor in between innings, he’s been carrying himself really well. He’s just been attacking guys.”

The Braves’ magic number to clinch a third consecutive National League East title has been reduced to six with seven games remaining, four of which will be played against the second-place Marlins this week.

Looking ahead to the postseason, the Braves’ rotation will likely include Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Cole Hamels and Wright, who had essentially been a candidate by default before he produced two of the strongest starts of his young career over the past eight days.

Wright earned his first career win with six strong innings at Nationals Park last weekend. The 24-year-old hurler showed his tremendous potential as he limited the Mets to one hit and did not issue a walk until the end of his 6 1/3-inning, 98-pitch effort. He had completed more than five innings in just two of nine career starts before this road trip began.

“I’ve been getting back to a good routine and back to what I guess I used to do,” Wright said. “That’s allowing my confidence to come from my preparation.”

Mets starter Rick Porcello was cruising until Acuña lined a first-pitch sinker over the right-field wall in the sixth. The opposite-field shot gave the 22-year-old outfielder 13 homers, despite spending two weeks in August on the injured list. Entering Sunday, his 10.4 at-bats per home run rate would have ranked fourth among those who have hit at least 10 homers this year.

Acuña, who added a three-run double in the ninth, entered this series finale having hit .133 (4-for-30) with 15 strikeouts and a .700 OPS through the first nine games of this road trip. So while his timely homer was welcomed, the most encouraging development was seeing Wright produce a second strong start.

“You can have a bad outing, but it doesn’t mean you’re a bad pitcher,” Acuña said through an interpreter. “So even when he was struggling, you could tell his stuff was there and he has the potential. He’s a tremendous baseball player and he’s just bringing that all together.”

Wright consistently commanded his fastball and displayed a highly effective curveball while recording six strikeouts. After walking J.D. Davis with one out in the seventh, he took a seat and watched Will Smith get Dominic Smith to ground into an inning-ending double play.

This is the efficiency the Braves have been seeking from Wright, who issued at least three walks in each of his first four starts in 2020, only one of which lasted longer than 3 1/3 innings. His improved command has added to the value of both of his breaking balls. His slider has long drawn attention, but his curveball has been the more effective pitch recently.  

Wright got a called strike or a whiff on six of the 13 (46%) curveballs he threw against the Nationals on Sept. 13. He garnered a similar percentage (44%) while throwing 18 curves during this latest outing.  

Braves manager Brian Snitker has long said Wright’s stuff is too good for him to not be successful. The value of that stuff has been enhanced as the confidence has finally grown over this past week.  

“I don’t know if there is ever a bad time for a kid like that to find himself, get that confidence and get himself going,” Snitker said. “I’m happy for him.”