This is how fast it can happen. With two out in the sixth inning, Zack Wheeler had retired 17 of 18 hitters, needing 58 pitches to run through the Braves’ batting order twice. His 59th delivery – a sinker that bore in, as opposed to down – plunked Ronald Acuna in the right elbow. That pitch changed the game Wednesday. It also changed this National League Division Series.

Acuna’s elbow felt … well, about the way you’d figure taking a 95-mph pitch off the crazy bone would feel. He slumped to his knees. It took him a while to stand. When finally he did, he moved slowly toward first base. He became the Braves’ second base runner – he’d been the first, too, having singled in the fourth – of a night that hadn’t produced a run.

The Truist Park audience, which has seen Acuna hit by pitches too often, booed Wheeler. (Never mind that he’s from Cobb County.) The booing increased when Wheeler threw to first base to chase Acuna back. By the time Dansby Swanson worked the count full, the place was roaring. When Swanson drew a walk – Wheeler’s one and only – Acuna moved to second base. After 5-2/3 innings, a Brave was in scoring position.

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That Brave scored on a Matt Olson grounder that Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins tipped into the outfield just far enough to allow Acuna to score. (Nothing achy about his legs.) Swanson took third, which became a big deal when the next hitter, Austin Riley, managed a swinging bunt that Wheeler could only field. Swanson dashed home. Riley was safe at first. Wheeler stood in the infield, holding the ball, wondering where his big October game had gone.

Travis d’Arnaud singled up the middle. Now it was 3-0. That’s how it ended. The Braves squared this best-of-five NLDS on a night when Wheeler, for the first 20 outs, was nigh-untouchable. He entered the sixth having thrown 50 pitches, no inning requiring more than 14. He threw 29 in the sixth, yielding three earned runs. Baseball can be cruel.

Back to Olson’s single. “If you asked Rhys, he’d probably say that’s a play he should make,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “I don’t think he got a good read on it. That’s a ball you should try to front.” Meaning keep in the infield.

The Braves couldn’t have known their breakthrough would be a function of a two-out HBP, but they seized on it like the craftsmen they’ve become. Starting pitcher Kyle Wright went six innings, allowing only three base runners. He kept the game winnable. The bullpen finished it – A.J. Minter in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias in the eighth, Kenley Jansen bringing it home.

“That was huge for us,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Wright’s sterling start. “We really needed just to get the game to our back-end (relievers).”

Braves 3, Phillies 0 (box score)

The reigning World Series champs won’t go to Philadelphia facing elimination. They’ll go having stared down Wheeler at his considerable peak. After the messy Game 1 loss, winning Game 2 in this manner was the best available tonic. The Braves reminded us who they are and how they got here. If they see Wheeler again, it will be in a Game 5 here Sunday, and he’ll be working on short rest.

Game 2 was supposed to start at 4:35 p.m. Rain delayed its start nearly three hours, which was kind of OK. Night games tend to be a bit more dramatic, do they not? Wright would do his bit; then Wheeler would do his. When pitchers of this ilk are working with such dispatch, you figure it’ll take something special to score. This one did.

The final three batters Wright faced were the top of the Phillies’ order – Kyle Schwarber, Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto. Wright struck out the first two looking. Realmuto lofted a pitch into left field that Swanson caught over his shoulder. Wright gestured in appreciation to his shortstop.

Said Snitker: “It all starts with Kyle. Him putting that sixth inning down was huge.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this was the sort of October game the Braves of yesteryear tended to lose. The doings of the past two postseasons have banished such negativity. They know they can win these games. They know because they have.

Snitker again: “They never quit. They don’t get caught up in the moment. They keep a slow heartbeat.”

Said Swanson, pointing to the moment when the Braves broke open this taut game: “An inning is never over. … Playoff baseball is about pitching, defense and timely hitting. We checked all three boxes tonight.”