brave vs. Phillies takeaways: Atlanta joins NLDS behind beats by Olson, Riley, d’Arnaud

The Atlanta Braves broke through against Philadelphia Philles ace Zack Wheeler with a two-out rally in the sixth inning, and that plus excellent pitching from Kyle Wright allowed them to win Game 2 by a score of 3-0. That win evened out the National League Division’s best-of-five streak at one game apiece.

The series is now moving to Philly for Game 3 on Friday. The winner of that series advances to the NLCS to face off against either the Dodgers or the Padres.

Now for some food stalls from Game 2.

Kyle Wright has opened a jewel

After Max Fried’s shaky outing in Game 1, the Braves needed a good outing from Game 2 starter Kyle Wright. He gave them that and then some. Wright spun six scoreless innings against the Phillies, and along the way he allowed two hits, hit out six and walked just one. Of his 83 pitches, 52 went on strike. In choking the Phillies, Wright relied heavily on his fastball and curve, and he also mixed in his sinker. That was important because Wright’s four-seamer was lagging by about a full hour an hour in Game 2 compared to his average regular-season fastball pace.

In terms of Game Score, a quick and dirty Bill James metric that measures a pitcher’s dominance, or lack thereof, on a given start (50 is average and anything 90 or higher is an absolute gem). Wright fielded a 73. Only twice during the regular season did he surpass that number, and those two starts faced the Pirates and Marlins — two lineups that don’t quite compare to Philly’s.

Zack Wheeler was almost as good

Wheeler was dominant in his start in the Wild Card Series against the Cardinals, and during the regular season he racked up 25 strikeouts against just one walk in his three starts against Atlanta. He served similarly in Wednesday’s Game 2 when he hit five and walked one with four hits allowed in six innings of work. Even in the sixth, when the Braves got those three runs on the board, they never set it up, instead dealing their damage with well-placed grounders that eluded Philly’s infield defense.

The Braves put together an incredibly large inning in the sixth

Speaking of which, the Braves might have saved the series with this ending of the sixth. Five straight runners reached base with two outs, something the Braves managed just five times during the 162-game regular season.

Wheeler pulled back the first two batters of the frame, but then Ronald reached Acuña Jr. when a pitch from Wheeler pinched his right elbow. Dansby Swanson then passed and Matt Olson singled and plated Acuña on a pull side grounder that first baseman Rhys Hoskins failed to quite secure. Austin Riley stayed on topic when he hit Wheeler with a soft dribble on the third baseline that Swanson scored. Finally, Travis d’Arnaud marked a ground ball down the middle to bring Olson home with the third and final run of the game. That was leeway enough for the Atlanta bullpen.

Kyle Schwarber’s struggles continue

Schwarber was a force for Philly during the regular season as he had 130 OPS+ and led the NL with 46 homers. However, these playoffs have yet to do him good. He went 0-7 with four strikeouts in the Wild Card Series against St. Louis and in Game 1 against the Braves he was 0-5 with one strikeout. Add in what he did in the Game 2 loss — 0 for 4 with three strikeouts — and he’s now 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts in the 2022 postseason. Needless to say, the Phillies need their top slugger, to find his level at home.

It’s basically a best-of-three series now

With the series tied 1-1, this NLDS is now essentially a best-of-three affair with the Phillies home field (Games 3 and 4 will be at Citizens’ Bank Park, and Game 5, if required, will be back in a suburb of Atlanta).

In Game 3 on Friday, Phillies co-ace Aaron Nola will play for the hosts against a starter from Atlanta to be determined. The big question is whether rookie right-hander Spencer Strider will make the start. He’s in the Braves’ NLDS roster, having been out since mid-September with an oblique injury.


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