Braves Vs. Phillies takeaways: Atlanta clinch NLDS behind bats of Olson, Riley, D’Arnaud

The Atlanta Braves broke through in the sixth inning with a two-out rally against Philadelphia Phillies ace Zack Wheeler, and Kyle Wright’s excellent pitching allowed them to take Game 2, 3-0. The win evened the best-of-five National League division series at one 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 the Dodgers or Padres.

Now some notes from Game 2.

Kyle Wright scored a gem

After Max Fried’s shaky performance in Game 1, the Braves needed a good outing from Game 2 starter Kyle Wright. He gave that and then some. Wright spun six scoreless innings against the Phillies, and along the way he allowed two hits, struck out six, and walked just one. Of his 83 pitches, 52 went for strikes. In stifling the Phillies, Wright leaned heavily on his fastball and curve, and he mixed in his sinker. That was vital because Wright’s four-seamer in Game 2 fell a full mile short of his regular-season average fastball speed.

As for Game Score, a quick-and-dirty Bill James metric that measures a pitcher’s dominance, or lack thereof, in a given start (50 average and 90 or higher is an absolute gem), Wright put up a 73. He surpassed that number twice during the regular season, and both of those starts came against the Pirates and Marlins — two lineups that Phillies can’t match.

Zack Wheeler was almost as good

Wheeler was dominant in his wild-card series opener against the Cardinals and had 25 strikeouts against just one walk in his three starts against Atlanta during the regular season. He pitched in similar fashion in Game 2 on Wednesday, striking out five and walking 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 didn’t square him up, instead doing their damage with well-placed grounders that eluded the Philly infield defense.

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The Braves put together a big inning in the sixth

Speaking of which, the Braves could have saved the series with that bottom of the sixth. Five straight runners reached base with two outs, something the Braves had done just five times during the 162-game regular season.

Wheeler retired the first two batters of the frame, but then Ronald Acuna Jr. reached when Wheeler’s pitch pierced his right elbow. Dansby Swanson then walked, and Matt Olson plated Acuna on a bull-side grounder that first baseman Rhys Hoskins couldn’t protect. Austin Riley kept the theme going when he used a smooth dribbler to Wheeler down the third-base line that scored Swanson. Finally, Travis d’Arnaud hit a ground ball up the middle to bring Olsen home with the third and final run of the game. That was enough for the Atlanta bullpen.

Kyle Schwarber’s struggles continue

Schwarber was a force for Philly during the regular season as he put up a 130 OPS+ and led the NL with 46 homers. However, these playoffs haven’t been kind to him yet. He went 0 for 7 with four strikeouts in the wild-card series against St. Louis, and was 0 for 5 with a strikeout in Game 1 against the Braves. 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. That being said, the Phillies need their top slugger to rediscover his position at home.

It’s basically a best-of-three series now

With the series tied 1-1, this NLDS is now 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 return to suburban Atlanta).

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

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