‘You’re always one pitch away’: Braves’ Kyle Wright produces strong first half

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

WASHINGTON – In the past, blow-up innings and poor starts caused Braves pitcher Kyle Wright to spiral. He never knew how to collect himself when situations went awry. As he figured out how to proceed, teams capitalized, hammering his mistakes and burying him.

This season is different.

Wright’s first half – in which he has realized his potential while turning around his career – has featured some dominant starts. But the more important part might be this: When opposing lineups have put traffic on the bases against Wright throughout a game, he hasn’t folded. Wright credited Max Fried with helping teach him this.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot from Max in watching him pitch and watching him play,” Wright told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Thursday’s game. “I think just what I’ve learned from him is, even when he doesn’t have his good stuff, he still finds a way to go six (innings), finds a way to go seven. Even if he gives up a couple early runs, he finds a way to give us a chance in the end.”

Wright is experiencing the best season of his career – and it isn’t particularly close. He has a 2.95 ERA through 18 starts. His 11 wins are tied for the most in the National League, and his 107 strikeouts rank seventh. He has pitched the eighth-most innings in the NL.

Early in the season, his stat lines looked more dominant. He allowed only three earned runs over his first four starts. He struck out 34 batters over that span.

Compare that with this past stretch, when Wright allowed 10 hits versus the Giants, eight versus the Nationals, then seven in another start against Washington. He has faced trouble, but hardly caved. He surrendered six runs in one start this season, five in another and four one other time.

“I think I’ve gained enough (experience) now to where I understand how to kind of slow the game down and make a pitch,” Wright said. “I think the big thing is just truly buying into the fact that you’re always one pitch away. I think that’s such a big thing. One pitch you get an out, next pitch you get another out, whatever it may be. You’re never really out of it.”

Wright has allowed two or fewer runs in 11 of 18 starts. He has held the opponent scoreless in five outings. Wright has gone six innings 13 times after having done it only six times before this season (including the postseason). Opponents are batting .230 versus Wright this season.

Wright has consistently performed this season. He has shown no discouraging signs. His turnaround seems real. He believes his past several starts prove his performance is sustainable.

“I started off the season getting a ton of strikeouts, and I still believe I can get strikeouts when I need it,” Wright said. “But realistically, I think for me, I throw a two-seam (fastball), I’m going to get contact, I’m going to get ground balls. My ability to still go deep into games while not striking out as many as I was before, I think, is what’s very encouraging to me. I still think I can get 10 strikeouts a game at some point. But I know my game. Just use that sinker, use that curveball. I feel like guys kind of stay aggressive because of that.”

Wright said the way he pitches plays into the Braves’ excellent defense. They have a strong infield and, with Michael Harris up, a terrific defensive outfield.

When everyone discussed the Braves’ rotation before the season, a ton of talk centered around what the Braves would receive from their fourth and fifth starters. The fourth starter, Wright probably has been the club’s second-best starter in the first half.

“He’s an All-Star,” manager Brian Snitker said of a right-hander who ranks among this year’s All-Star game snubs.

A former first-round pick who experienced ups and downs, one who spent most of last year at Triple-A, Wright is blossoming into a great major-league starter.

“If you look back, it’s super satisfying to kind of see where I was and the amount of struggles I’ve had,” Wright said. “To be here now and put together a good first half so far is really special. Selfishly, it’s pretty cool.

“But I want to do things bigger than just this. I want to win games, and that’s going to continue to be my goal.”

Adam, Michelle Duvall welcome second child

On July 8, Adam Duvall and his wife, Michelle, welcomed their baby boy, Story Duvall, into the world. The Duvalls now are a family of four.

When Adam and Michelle had their first child, Stone, Adam’s perspective changed. Suddenly, baseball wasn’t everything.

“You can’t be in a bad mood when you go home because they’re looking forward to seeing you,” Adam said. “You’ve got to have a quick switch, turn it off when you leave the field and just enjoy those moments that you have at home.”

Michelle and Story are healthy, Adam said. The Braves outfielder will continue balancing baseball and parenthood.

It’s difficult because baseball players often are on the road, but he said Michelle may have the tougher job.

“When (players) get to see them, it’s super exciting,” Adam said. “They’re happy to see us. I’d say it’s a lot easier on us than the wives, who get to see all their temper tantrums and all that stuff that goes along with kids.”

Braves’ dominance at Nationals Park

After Friday’s win over Washington, the Braves have won a franchise-record 13 games in a row at Nationals Park.

This streak is the longest ever by any team in the ballpark. The Nationals won nine in a row here three different times, last doing it in 2019.

Over the 13-game winning streak in Washington, the Braves have outscored the Nationals 85-40, while hitting 35 home runs.