Despite Minter's struggles, Braves' 'pen solid behind Wright

April 28th, 2023

ATLANTA -- Heavy rain delayed the Braves’ series finale vs. the Marlins in the fourth inning on Thursday for just over three hours and as a result, thrust Atlanta’s bullpen into the spotlight. Miami overcame a four-run deficit in the ninth inning to snap Atlanta’s three-game win streak, handing the Braves a 5-4 loss at Truist Park.

After Atlanta scored four runs in the fifth inning to take an early lead, it seemed the club would be able to cruise to a finale victory. But then allowed four singles and a double in the ninth inning that cut the Braves’ lead to one run. replaced Minter but gave up a go-ahead two-run double to Garrett Cooper.

All five of the hits came off Minter’s four-seamer and cutter, which were scattered around the middle of the zone. Minter, who does best when he’s consistently throwing strikes, finished the game with 15 strikes of his 23 pitches over two-thirds of an inning. (Both of the outs came via strikeout.)

“Everything just kind of just mid-lined,” Minter said. “I’m not locating the ball where I want to. With that being said, coming in throwing strikes -- that's really the only thing I can do, and [seeing] if they're gonna hit, which they did today. But this one hurts. This one, we deserved to win that game.”

Minter walked away with his third loss of the season as the southpaw struggled to close his third game in seven days. He was also tagged with the loss on Friday and had a blown save on Sunday, both vs. the Astros. (He did get the save in Thursday’s win vs. the Marlins, though.) In his past four games, Minter has struck out a combined seven batters while allowing 10 runs on 10 hits, including one homer, and two walks over 3 2/3 innings.

“[Players] go through a little funk, like everybody does in this game,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s been really good. He's third in the [National League] in saves. ... It happens, and he'll flush it like he always has and be fine.”

Raisel Iglesias, who served as the Braves' closer last year, will join the fold in the coming weeks after starting his rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday by striking out one in a 1-2-3 second inning. He has progressed well with treatment since being shut down during the final week of Spring Training with a right shoulder injury. Last season after being traded to Atlanta by the Angels, Iglesias finished seven games while logging 30 strikeouts and allowing two runs on 17 hits and five walks in 26 1/3 innings.

Outside of the game-altering ninth inning, Atlanta’s bullpen was solid. When play resumed after the rain delay, Collin McHugh took the bump, followed by Dylan Lee, Kirby Yates and Nick Anderson. The quartet combined for five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out five.

“They did great,” Snitker said. “They put zeros up, that’s what we wanted to do. It's good to get Collin back out there for a couple innings that he did and Dylan, [Nick] and [Kirby were] really good, so that's all really good stuff. We had one bad inning.”

Prior to the delay, Kyle Wright had been off to a hot start. Wright struck out six batters across three innings. He threw 35 strikes and allowed two singles and one walk on 45 pitches.

Wright’s curveball was devastating, getting 10 whiffs on 19 swings. His go-to pitch, the curve, was put into play just once while utilized to induce all six of Wright's strikeouts. Thursday's outing was a brief, yet positive showing from Wright, who appeared to have bounced back after struggling in his previous starts.

“Really happy with the progression that I made today,” Wright said. “Curveball is significantly better. Still had some pitches that weren't great, but I was able to make the adjustment right away, which is something I haven't been doing a good job of. So for me, that was very encouraging. Really happy about that.”

The Braves' offense struggled to score after its four-run rally in the fifth inning. The lineup went 5-for-32 with just one hit coming after the team’s fifth inning.

“This team has always been able to put stuff behind it,” Snitker said. “It's just one of the things in the game you play for six and a half months, you're gonna have games like that. You don't like it, [and] it's no fun, but it's part of it.”