ATLANTA — Unsung moments often pave the way for defining moments in the World Series, but unsung moments can be defining in their own way.
That’s what happened with Braves pitcher Kyle Wright when he tossed a perfect inning of relief in an out-of-reach Game 2 in Houston on Wednesday. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but that one inning paid dividends for the Braves, who after a 3-2 win in Game 4 on Saturday night — with a huge hand from Wright when they needed him most — sit just one win from their first World Series title since 1995.
So if the Braves do win the World Series, consider Wright the honorary series MVP for his Game 4 performance.
“Kyle is the reason we won the game,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Wright, who entered the game in the top of the first with the bases loaded and one out after opener Dylan Lee was shaky and allowed three of the first four batters to reach.
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Wright retired his first batter, Carlos Correa, on a weak run-scoring grounder, and then struck out Houston slugger Kyle Tucker swinging with runners on second and third — an exceptional display of damage control.
Wright remained steady from there. The Astros caused him to bend, but he never broke. And in the end, Wright tossed 4 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, one run and three walks while striking out three. He was good enough, and he kept the Braves in the game.
In other words, the moment wasn’t too big for the 26-year-old — it was just right.
“What Kyle did extending that game was just — he probably doesn’t even realize what he did for us and how big that was, especially the situation that he came in,” Snitker said.
Wright, who made just two appearances for the Braves in 2021, spent most of the season in Triple-A, accumulating innings, honing his skills and trying to give Atlanta reason to believe he’s an important part of the future. It was the right move for him, he acknowledged after Saturday’s game, even if it wasn’t his preferred journey.
“I kind of hit the reset button a little bit,” he told reporters. “I was struggling a lot this year and was kind of, honestly, a little lost. I kind of went and 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.”
His manager agreed.
“The greatest thing these guys can have is experience, I don’t care where it is,” Snitker said. “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.”
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Wright was added to the World Series roster not just because the Braves needed a deep staff, but also because the team was confident he could handle it. And when Charlie Morton went down in Game 1, it was almost certain that Wright would be a factor before the series was over.
“He’s not shy to moments like this. He’s been in big-time situations ever since I’ve known him,” said Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, Wright’s teammate at Vanderbilt, reflecting on how Wright served as the Commodores’ closer as a freshman.
Swanson said he has told Braves president Alex Anthopoulos that Wright has “got it.”
“I know he does,” Swanson said. “He was nails for us then, and he’s obviously been pretty special so far here in this World Series.”
Which brings us back to that Game 2 outing.
Wright entered the game with the Braves trailing the Astros 7-2. All he did was strike out Jose Siri, Martin Maldonado and Jose Altuve in succession — looking poised, confident and nasty. It was his first big league action of any kind since June 23, when he allowed five earned runs in two innings against the Mets. To return to the majors by striking out the side would be a confidence booster in July, never mind in the World Series.
It’s garbage time, but don’t underestimate how much Kyle Wright’s outing could pay dividends for the Braves later in the series.
— Jason Foster (@ByJasonFoster) October 28, 2021
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With the Braves’ pitching staff already short-handed after Morton broke his leg in Game 1, it was hoped that Wright’s appearance in what amounted to baseball garbage time would get him acclimated both to the Astros and the spotlight — because he would almost certainly be needed later as the Braves planned two bullpen games when the series shifted to Atlanta. Wright said after Saturday’s game that the inning in Houston did serve as a sort of low-key introduction to series, and that carried over into Game 4.
“In the bullpen, I felt like I was under control,” he said, later citing “a bunch of confidence.”
Which helped with the game plan: “Just attack and let guys make plays, and that’s what we did.”
Wright’s contribution to Game 4 was as important as the back-to-back home runs from Swanson and Jorge Soler that tied the game and then put the Braves ahead. But it probably won’t be remembered that way for long because offense always wins out over long relief in our collective memories. But that won’t diminish the impact of the performance. Wright didn’t get a win, he didn’t even get a hold. Officially, all he did was appear in the game. But, of course, his teammates and his manager know better.
The word Snitker kept coming back to in describing Wright’s outing: “huge.” It checks out.
The Braves are one win from a championship, thanks to an unsung moment that ended up being a defining moment of the World Series.