On August 31st, the Braves arrived in Boston to face the Red Sox for the first of two series the clubs had on their schedules this season. At the time, Atlanta had overcome a difficult schedule, a plethora of injuries, and struggles from several young arms. However, they were still in first place, and their competition was about to become a bit easier to find success against.
Since that series, the Braves offense has been otherworldly. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie “MVFREE” Freeman have certainly put their generational talents on display. However, Marcell Ozuna, Adam Duvall, Ozzie Albies, and others have also provided significant contributions, to the point that the Braves may have the deepest lineup in baseball. Without a doubt, the Braves success this season will likely be determined by how well the offense performs in October.
Obviously, the Braves bullpen will be another significant factor going into the playoffs. However, though the Braves starting staff has been among the worst in baseball this season, there has been incremental improvements in recent weeks. Since September 11th, the Braves starters have slashed a 3.90 ERA/ 3.45 FIP/ 4.29 xFIP production line. The Braves starters have been worth 1.6 fWAR over the past two weeks, good for eighth in the MLB over that time. While one reason for the improvement has been playing weaker competition, that should not take away from the many encouraging performances the Braves have seen from their young arms over the past several games.
Without a doubt, Ian Anderson has been the most impressive of the group, to the point that he likely is the clear starter in a Game 2 scenario for Atlanta in a playoff series. Furthermore, Huascar Ynoa and Bryse Wilson have also impressed multiple times on the mound in September. However, perhaps the most intriguing performance in recent days was produced by Kyle Wright in his last start.
Sure, it was only one outing, so excitement should be kept in context. However, it was a performance in which:
A) Wright was in complete command, allowing one hit and one walk along with six strikeouts, retiring 19 of the 21 total batters he faced.
B) Wright silenced one the majors’ most productive lineups this season in the Mets. Though it may be surprising, the Mets and Braves are tied for the highest wRC+ this season among MLB offenses at 122.
C) Wright produced a performance that was graded better than any of Max Fried’s outings this season. According to Fangraphs, Wright’s start registered a GSv2 grade of 81, while Fried’s highest grade this season is 77.
In a season where the Braves have had Robbie Erlin and Tommy Milone as part of their BIG THREE at times, this is no small feat. Though Fried and Anderson are the obvious choices for the first two games of any playoff series, the Braves’ options to start a game, besides a complete bullpen effort, after that are far from clear. Wright has put together back to back starts in which he has gone six or more innings. He did yield four total runs against the Nationals before his masterpiece against the Mets, but both performances were more than enough for the Braves offense to secure wins. If Wright can put together another good performance tonight, he may be among the best choices for the Braves to feature when they need a third or fourth starter in the postseason.
I can concur that idea sounds completely crazy; however, here we are, so why not embrace the insanity!
The Red Sox will counter with Chris Mazza, who has produced a 5.40 ERA over 25 innings and five starts this season. His FIP is 4.07, so his results may contain a bit of bad luck. However, he is allowing nearly 11 hits and 4 walks per nine innings, so it seems Atlanta will have their chances to score tonight. With another victory needed to lock up the second overall position in the National League Playoff seeding, the Braves still have incentive to play at the moment. Though they may rest some players, expect the Braves to be ready to rock, especially after last night’s struggles.
Overall, it should be an exciting start to the final series of the season. If Wright can perform well and the offense can produce, Atlanta should have a good chance to earn the victory.
Game Date/Time: Friday, September 25, 7:10 p.m. EST
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network