After long layoff, Kyle Wright will make postseason debut in Game 3

Kyle Wright last pitched in a game Sept. 25. Thirteen days later, he’ll return to the mound Thursday afternoon as the Braves' starting pitcher in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Miami Marlins.

“It has been a little while, but for a good reason,” Wright said Wednesday. “... I’m itching to get back out there and go play."

Wright would have pitched in the third game of last week’s best-of-three wild-card playoff series against Cincinnati, but his start wasn’t necessary because the Braves won the first two games of that series. Instead, he threw against Braves hitters under simulated game conditions Friday, the same day he would have faced the Reds.

“I was able to … get some good work in,” he said. "I got to face some good hitters. So I feel like (the layoff) shouldn’t have too much effect.

“I just tried to treat my (simulated) game like it was a real game, the best that I could. It was kind of good to get out there and compete a little bit, but also to work on some stuff. I feel like I was able to stay prepared as normal.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker also believes the simulated game will mitigate the long break between starts as Wright makes the first postseason appearance of his young career.

“He threw on his day to throw, and he’s lined up good,” Snitker said Wednesday. “It’s not the ideal. You’d like for him to have pitched a game. It didn’t happen, and I’m glad, but I think we did a really good job in the (simulated) situation. We kept it as real as possible, and he should be really good to go.”

Wright, a 25-year-old rookie right-hander, opened this season in the Braves' starting rotation, but was demoted to the alternate training site at Gwinnett on Aug. 20 after posting a 7.20 ERA (with 16 walks in 15 innings) through four starts. He showed strong signs of progress in four additional starts after rejoining the Braves' rotation in September, reducing his walks to eight across 23 innings in those outings.

His last two starts of the regular season were his best of the year: He allowed only one hit in 6-1/3 scoreless innings against the New York Mets on Sept. 20 and two runs on two hits in 6-2/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 25.

“When I got sent down, I kind of just got back to focusing on what I need to do to go out and compete and pitch the best of my abilities,” Wright said. “I feel like I’m getting back to that point. I’ve still got more to work on, some more to do, but I’m closer to where I want to be, for sure.”

He struggled considerably in two starts against Miami this season. On Aug. 14, his final start before being demoted, he lasted three innings against the Marlins, allowing three runs on two hits and six walks. On Sept. 8, his first start upon rejoining the rotation, he went four innings against Miami, surrendering five runs on seven hits and two walks.

Those two outings gave Wright a 10.29 ERA in seven innings against the Marlins this season.

“They’re a really tough lineup,” he said. “They battle a lot. They don’t really chase a whole lot, so for me I’ve got to be in zone. Make them put the ball in play and let our defense work."

In three starts since he last faced the Marlins, Wright pitched six or more innings each time. His strong finish trimmed his ERA for the season from 7.20 in mid-August to 5.21.

Wright, the Braves’ first-round draft pick (No. 5 overall) in 2017, has cited several factors for his late-season improvement, including a more aggressive mindset, using his two-seam fastball more often and moving on the mound to the first-base side of the rubber.

The Marlins' starting pitcher in Game 3 will be hard-throwing rookie right-hander Sixto Sanchez, who was 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA in seven starts this season. He started twice against the Braves, holding them scoreless across six innings Sept. 8 and allowing four runs in three innings Sept. 23. He pitched five scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of the Marlins' wild-card series sweep last week.