PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Baseball pitcher Kyle Wright pitched six brilliant innings to outplay Zack Wheeler as the Atlanta Braves leveled their NL Division Series by a game apiece and defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 Wednesday night.
After persistent rain delayed the first pitch by almost three hours, Wright gave up just two hits and took the win when the Braves came to Wheeler for three runs at the bottom of the sixth.
This was a game the reigning World Series champion had to have after losing the opener of the best-of-five series 7-6. They had the right man on the hill, a right-hander with a big arm and looping curveball who’s finally realized his tremendous potential.
Wright, a former first-round draft pick who struggled to get past Triple-A, came into this season with a 2-8 record in the majors. He totally turned it around, winning three more games than any other big league pitcher at 21-5.
Wright kept it going in the playoffs. His only major threat came in the second when Bryce Harper led with a double, then switched and moved into third on a Nick Castellanos flyout to deep center.
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Harper had to climb back into third after Alec Bohm’s groundout for first, and Brandon Marsh hit with a swing on a four-sailer that arrived at 96 mph.
AJ Minter, Raisel Iglesias and Kenley Jansen finished the three-hitter with one inning each. Jansen deserves the save.
Dansby Swanson made a stunning play to finish the Phillies in sixth place.
The shortstop sprinted with his back to infield and reached out to catch a pop fly from JT Realmuto while plummeting to the grass in outfield. Wright threw both arms in the air when he realized Swanson had released the lock.
It turned out to be the final pitch of Wright’s 83-pitch jewel, in which he hit six with a stride.
Wright watched from the top step of the dugout as the Braves eventually broke the goalless tie in the bottom half and did all the damage after Wheeler pulled back the first two batsmen.
It started when Wheeler smacked Ronald Acuña Jr. near the right elbow in a 96 mph fastball flying towards the slugger.
There was a delay of several minutes while Acuña, writing in pain, was reviewed by training staff. In the Atlanta dugout, Gil Heredia prepared to go inside. Wheeler, meanwhile, threw a few pitches and tried to stay loose.
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The right-hander who grew up in Metro Atlanta wasn’t the same after Acuña finally trotted onto first base.
Swanson walked and Matt Olson drove on the first run of the game, ripping a single past first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who meekly waved at a ball he should have at least knocked down.
Olson was generously credited with an RBI single, but the Braves weren’t done yet. Austin Riley’s powerful swing produced a small dribble down the third baseline for an infield strike that made it 2-0.
Then it was Travis d’Arnaud who landed a center for another run-scoring hit before Wheeler finally pulled out the third.
Way too late to stop the Braves from tying the series.
At least the wildcard Phillies are finally heading home. Game 3 is Friday at Citizens Bank Park, where Philadelphia will play for the first time since a regular-season loss to the Braves on September 25.
The Phillies have since played 14 straight games, including four playoff games in their first postseason appearance since 2011.
Swanson’s catch wasn’t even the home side’s best defensive play of the night.
Riley made a similar back-to-the-field grab in foul territory in the eighth, only it was even harder because the third baseman had to navigate the railing and the tarp stored in front of it.
He made the catch, sliding along the tarp and managing to hang on as he slammed into the dirt.
Tyler Matzek, a key member of the Braves’ bullpen on their trek to the 2021 World Series title, is done for this season.
And in all probability after 2023.
The Braves announced Wednesday that Matzek has undergone Tommy John surgery. He was dropped from the team’s post-season roster due to pain in his left elbow, and doctors in Texas determined he had torn ligaments.
The normal recovery period is 12 to 18 months, meaning Matzek likely won’t return to a major league mound until 2024.
RHP Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA) gets the Game 3 nod for the Phillies. The Braves had not yet announced their starter, who will be either RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.34) or rookie RHP Spencer Strider (11-5, 2.67). Strider has not served since September 18 due to an oblique injury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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