Braves vs. Phillies takeaways: Atlanta ties NLDS behind bats of Olson, Riley, d’Arnaud

The Atlanta Braves broke through against Philadelphia Philles ace Zack Wheeler with a two-out rally in the sixth inning, and that plus the excellent pitching of Kyle Wright allowed them to take Game 2 by a score of 3-0. That win evens the best-of-five National League Division Series at a game apiece.

The series now shifts to Philly for Game 3 on Friday. The winner of this series will advance to the NLCS to face either the Dodgers or Padres.

Now for some takeaways from Game 2.

Kyle Wright pitched a gem
After Max Fried’s shaky outing in Game 1, the Braves needed a good outing from Game 2 starter Kyle Wright. He gave them that and then some. Wright twirled six scoreless innings against the Phillies, and along the way he allowed two hits, struck out six, and walked only one. Of his 83 pitches, 52 went for strikes. In suffocating the Phillies, Wright leaned heavily on his fastball and curve, and he also mixed in his sinker. That was essential, since Wright’s four-seamer in Game 2 was down about a full mph relative to his regular-season average fastball velocity.

In terms of Game Score, which is a quick-and-dirty Bill James metric that measures a pitcher’s dominance or lack thereof in a given start (50 is average and anything 90 or higher is an absolute gem), Wright put up a 73. Just twice during the regular season did he exceed that figure, and those two starts came against the Pirates and Marlins – two lineups that can’t compare to Philly’s.

Zack Wheeler was almost as good
Wheeler was dominant in his Wild Card Series start against the Cardinals, and during the regular season he racked up 25 strikeouts against only one walk in his three starts against Atlanta. He pitched in a similar vein on Wednesday in Game 2, as he struck out five and walked one with four hits allowed in six innings of work. Even in the sixth, when the Braves put those three runs on the board, they never squared him up and instead did their damage with well-placed grounders that eluded the Philly infield defense.

The Braves put together an unlikely big inning in the sixth
Speaking of which, the Braves may have salvaged the series with that bottom of the sixth. Five straight runners reached base with two outs, which is something the Braves managed to do just five times during the 162-game regular season.

Wheeler retired the first two batters of the frame, but then Ronald Acuña Jr. reached when a pitch from Wheeler drilled him on his right elbow. Dansby Swanson then walked, and Matt Olson singled and plated Acuña on a pull-side grounder that first baseman Rhys Hoskins couldn’t quite secure. Austin Riley kept with the theme, as he singled on a soft dribbler to Wheeler down the third-base line that scored Swanson. Finally, Travis d’Arnaud singled on a ground ball up the middle to bring Olson home with the third and final run of the game. That was margin enough for the Atlanta bullpen.

Kyle Schwarber’s struggles continue
Schwarber during the regular season was a force for Philly, as he put up a 130 OPS+ and led the NL with 46 homers. These playoffs, however, have yet to be kind to him. He went 0 for 7 with four strikeouts in the Wild Card Series against St. Louis, and in Game 1 against the Braves he was 0 for 5 with a strikeout. Add in what he did in the Game 2 loss – 0 for 4 with three strikeouts – and he’s now 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts in the 2022 postseason. Needles to say, the Phillies need their top slugger to find his level back at home.

It’s now basically a best-of-three series
With the series tied 1-1, this NLDS is now in essence a best-of-three affair with the Phillies’ holding home-field advantage (Games 3 and 4 will be at Citizens’ Bank Park, and Game 5, if necessary, will be back in suburban Atlanta).

In Game 3 on Friday, Phillies co-ace Aaron Nola will go for the hosts opposite an Atlanta starter to be determined. The big question is whether rookie right-hander Spencer Strider will be able to make the start. He’s on the Braves’ NLDS roster after being out since mid-September with an oblique injury.