There was a lot of excitement around Ronald Acuna Jr. on Thursday, but the best thing that happened for the Atlanta Braves that day was Kyle Wright’s performance.
The Atlanta Braves had an exciting Thursday as they got the return of superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. and beat the Chicago Cubs 5-1 to pick up their first series win of the year.
But the biggest development from Thursday was by far the continued maturation process of Kyle Wright.
The former fifth overall pick tossed 7 innings allowing just 1 earned run on 3 hits and 4 walks with 8 strikeouts.
But just looking at the final line doesn’t tell the true story for how big of a night this was for the 26 year old.
Braves — The Next Step for Kyle Wright
In his first three starts of 2022, Kyle Wright was just flat out good and dominant. He had all of his pitches working and could command them all at any point throughout the start.
That was far from the case on Thursday against the Cubs.
In the first inning, he gave up a leadoff single but was at least filling up the strike zone. He walked Willson Contreras, but it was a good walk with a base open and a good hitter at the plate. He got out of the inning without much trouble.
Then things fell apart in the second inning.
Suddenly he lost all command of his pitches, particularly the fastball, and walked the first two batters.
After a mound visit by Travis d’Arnaud, they decided to exclusively feature his curveball. He threw nine more pitches that inning — eight of them were fastballs — and he got a strikeout, a groundout, and picked a runner off base.
First of all, big props to TDA for noticing the issue, making the adjustment, and sticking with the pitch that was working for him.
But why this is such a huge deal is that Wright was able to learn that even on a night when he doesn’t have command of all of his pitches, he can navigate through a lineup with just one or two.
That is huge for his development going forward.
And he continued to battle through it all night. He was wild to begin the third inning falling behind 2-0 to the first two hitters, but the aggressive nature of the Cubs hitters helped him out a little.
Then he found it again in the fourth in what was one of his better innings.
In the fifth, he gave up the second hardest-hit ball of the game, but Ronald Acuna Jr. did a good job getting it back in to hold Jason Heyward to a single. Later in that inning, he hit a batter, showing he was still struggling with command.
But his defense bailed him out with a double-play on a lineout.
He went back to filling up the strikezone in the sixth, which bought him another inning. However, to start the seventh, he walked Alfonso Rivas on five pithces.
But he settled down and got a double-play on a comebacker to the mound and was able to finish the seventh inning.
Watching the game, you could visibly see it was a battle for him the entire game — not nearly as easy and comfortable as his first three starts.
But as a starting pitcher, you’re going to have days like that, and learning how to navigate them and find out what’s working is the biggest developmental hurdle a young starter has to make.
Kyle Wright has now passed the test, and through four starts this season he’s 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 34 strikeouts in 24 innings.