The Braves really needed a good start from young Kyle Wright on Tuesday. All of a sudden, what appeared to be a strength for this Braves team—depth in starting pitching—looks like the Achilles Heel. Mike Soroka and Max Fried are off to excellent starts on the young 2020 season. But you’ve heard about the travails of Mike Foltyniewicz; after one lousy start, he’s been DFA’d (what an ugly verb). And the guys who were to bring the veteran presents showed up to the party empty –handed; King Felix decided not to play, and the left arm of Cole Hamels is apparently deciding the same. And Sean Newcomb, who was a good reliever last year, as a starter looks like nothing so much as Newk the starter from two years ago. In his start Sunday he needed 82 pitches to get through three and a third.
So as good as Soroka and Fried are, the Braves obviously need some folks to step up. Fortunately, the great rebuild of the past five years was based on the premise that although TINSTASPP, if you get enough pitching prospects some of them will work out. (You know the idea; of course one monkey–or even several monkeys–can’t write the works of Shakespeare, but if you get enough of them typing away, eventually you’ll get the entire corpus of the Bard.)
Thanks to this strategy, the Braves do have several more highly touted young starters to fill the holes in the rotation. First to audition was Kyle Wright, the first round pick out of Vanderbilt three years ago. There is a reason he was drafted number five overall. He’s got great stuff, he throws several quality pitches, and he seems to have a good head on his shoulders. In brief major league action before this year he struggled, but it takes even the greats a little time to settle in. (See Greg Maddux’s rookie year.)
Well, given the rotation struggles, they needed young Mr. Wright to be Mr. Wright Now. And he did not disappoint! Wright had a terrific start.
By start, I mean the first two innings. In the first, he got them 1-2-3 with two punch-outs; ten pitches, nine strikes. By the end of the second, Wright had tossed 21 pitches, with 18 of them strikes. That’s Maddux-level control.
I wish I could stop there. Suffice it to say that Wright’s third inning didn’t go so well. After a lead off walk, he retired the next two Rays, but then walked the bases loaded and allowed three consecutive two out hits. He left the game after 2 and two/thirds, having surrendered five runs. His third inning consisted of 17 strikes and 16 balls. That’s Sean Newcomb-level control.
That third inning was pretty much the ball game. The Braves pen (Tomlin, Jackson, Matzek, and Greene) held them scoreless the rest of the way—only 3 hits and no walks in 5 and 1/3 combined.
But our Braves only managed two runs on six hits. Alex Jackson did get his first big league hit and followed with another. His batting average of .286 is exactly the same as those of Acuña and Freeman combined (.143 each).
Yes, the offense is struggling (12 more strikeouts today, BTW). Don’t worry about that. RAJ and Freddie will hit. If you want to worry, be concerned about the starting rotation.
But don’t worry about the home opener on Wednesday. Mike Soroka goes against old friend Charlie Morton. Soroka is an absolute pleasure to watch on the mound. I wish these other guys could emulate the control, command, and composure of the young Canadian. If I were the Braves pitching coach, I’d just tell them all to be like Mike.
Seriously, guys like him come along once in a generation. Enjoy him while you can. Given the state of the world and the pandemic, your opportunities to watch him may be especially limited.