ATLANTA -- Kyle Wright had pitched a total of 7 1/3 innings at the Major League level this season, including the playoffs, entering Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday. When opener Dylan Lee recorded just one out against the Astros, Wright stepped in -- and tossed the longest outing by a reliever in Braves postseason history.
“Kyle is the reason we won the game,” manager Brian Snitker said.
The right-hander threw 4 2/3 innings in Atlanta’s 3-2 victory that put them up 3-1 and one win away from clinching it all. Wright allowed five hits, one run (a homer to Jose Altuve) and three walks, while striking out three over 75 pitches.
“He's really good,” Altuve said. “Two-seam, four-seam mix, plays really good. His curveball is probably similar to [a] Charlie Morton type of curveball. It's really good.”
Saturday marked Wright’s 25th career appearance (16 starts), and only the seventh game in which he recorded at least 14 outs. It was a standout performance for the 26-year-old who has been trying to establish himself in the Braves’ pitching staff since being selected with the fifth overall pick of the 2017 Draft.
“I've had a lot of ups and downs this year,” Wright said. “Just to be able to get back in a position where I could help the team was definitely pretty special. My goal was just to get it to the back end, and those guys have been nails all year. Fortunately, I was able to do that, and they shut it down from there.”
Wright’s playoff experience began last season, when he earned the win in a six-inning scoreless start in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Marlins. But starting Game 3 of the NL Championship Series a week later, he allowed seven runs to the Dodgers before exiting after just two-thirds of a frame.
Wright made only two starts in the big leagues this season. Instead of volleying him between the Majors and the Minors, the Braves had him pitch the majority of the year in Triple-A. The consistency paid off: He posted a 2.18 ERA in his final 13 starts with the Gwinnett Stripers.
“The best thing was for him to stay in Triple-A all year, amass innings and pitch and be successful,” Snitker said. “The greatest thing these guys can have is experience -- I don't care where it is -- especially as a pitcher. I think we asked a lot of him in his young career, and I love the fact he got to stay down there all year, and he put together a really good year. For me, tonight, I saw that. It was a more mature pitcher because he'd experienced more.”
“It sucks being down there, but I completely agree [with Snitker],” Wright said. “I kind of hit the reset button a little bit. I was struggling a lot this year and was kind of, honestly, a little lost. I kind of went back and watched a bunch of old video to see where I was at when I was pitching well. I basically found where I needed to be and worked pretty strict on those mechanical changes, and I feel like it's put me in a much better position now to be more consistent. I feel like my stuff's been better, and everything has all around been better.”
Wright returned to postseason action this year by striking out the side in the eighth inning of Atlanta’s Game 2 World Series loss, which helped get him reacclimated to the immensity of the Fall Classic. On Saturday, he was thrown into a high-pressure situation and navigated his way out of it unscathed.
Wright entered the game with one out and the bases loaded. He induced a Carlos Correa groundout with a 94.8 mph sinker, allowing one run to score, and escaped the inning by striking out Kyle Tucker with a 96 mph fastball.
“We didn't know a whole bunch about him,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We know he's been up and down. We know he has outstanding stuff, which we were told and which we saw in the video. We were also told that sometimes he can get wild with his pitches. Tonight, he threw the ball well. When he came in and got out of that bases-loaded [jam] with that sinker he threw in on Carlos, we could tell right there that he had good stuff.”
The Braves knew Game 4 would be a bullpen game. While they likely didn’t account for the opener going only one-third of an inning, Wright efficiently turned a potential obstacle into an opportunity.
“The situation we put him in was probably something we didn't want to do, honestly, but how he limited damage, his stuff was so good tonight, too,” Snitker said. “He's really, really good.”