ATLANTA – To call it an impossible dream might be hyperbole, since the Atlanta Braves came home all square in this World Series, needing three wins to call themselves champions, same as the Houston Astros.

Yet given the path they’d travel to get there – down to just a pair of healthy starting pitchers, leaning even more on a bullpen already carrying them, a punishing opponent ready to pounce – a World Series title seemed like the stuff of fantasy.

Now, they’re just 27 more outs from making everybody’s dreams come true.

Saturday night in Game 4, embarking on an 18-inning stretch in which all the outs would be recorded by relief pitchers, the Braves dusted off a bad idea – giving a kid his first career start in a World Series – and uncovered a burgeoning gem of their own. Oh, when history looks back on this 3-2 victory over the Astros, they’ll focus on the startling back-to-back seventh-inning home runs by Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler, and Eddie Rosario’s highlight-reel backhand catch in the eighth.

Yet if the Braves are to capture their first World Series title since 1995 – and the first of three shots comes at Truist Park Sunday night at 8 ET – they’ll know the real battle came in covering the outs left behind by a trail of injured starting pitchers.

Saturday night, it was Kyle Wright, a big leaguer since 2018 yet carrying a 6.56 ERA in 21 appearances scattered over four years, who turned the odds in Atlanta’s favor.

Taking the ball from ill-fated opener Dylan Lee in the top of the first inning, Wright pitched the game of his professional career, absorbing 4 ⅔ innings for the Braves, dodging plenty of traffic – eight baserunners in all – yet getting nicked only by Jose Altuve’s fourth-inning homer.

Sure, the glory this October – and in any recounting of an eventual Braves championship – will belong to high-leverage relievers Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and Will Smith, who finished this win with three innings of one-hit, scoreless relief.

But getting there in Game 4 seemed like too much of a challenge. Wright was able to build it.

“Kyle is the reason we won this game,” says Braves manager Brian Snitker. “The situation we put him in was probably something we didn’t want to do, honestly, but he limited damage. He’s really, really good.”

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Wright did not make any appearances with Braves last year. His roster for either the NL Division, or Championship Series did not include Wright.

However, Snitker thought they would need more length to defeat the Astros so Wright was added.

Then, in Game 1, Charlie Morton, a playoff ace, fractured his fibula.

After lefty Max Fried’s five-inning Game 2 loss, everything changed. For the final four games, it’d be Ian Anderson, Fried in Game 6 – and everyone else in between.

The Braves were able to get creative. They surprised Lee with his opener assignment Saturday afternoon – “I told my fiancee and her family and my family that they should come a little early to the game,” said the deadpan Dinuba, California native – and he pitched like a man wondering what he was doing there.

Lee ran in from the bullpen to start the game, rather than the dugout, but he couldn’t trick his left arm into thinking this was any regular outing. His night went single-walk-strikeout-walk, the Astros taking a 1-0 lead, before leaving Wright with a bases-loaded, one-out mess.

“I know,” Lee said, “that I’m a reliever, now.”

It was a funny story, and Wright’s performance built on his confidence in six of his last starts at Class AAA Gwinnett. This stretch saw Wright strike out 38 times, while he walked only 10.

Carlos Correa scored an RBI single, and he struck out Kyle Tucker for two additional runners. This was a mere 1-0 loss.

He handed a 2-0 game to Chris Martin, one more inning Snitker had to steal – Martin did not pitch in the NLDS and just twice over nine games of the NLCS and World Series. But Martin’s uneventful inning lined up the big boys – Matzek, Jackson and Smith – to take them home.

Matzek, who worked the seventh, has given up just three runs in 13 ⅔ innings this postseason, striking out 17, with a 0.98 WHIP. Smith has not given up a run in 10 postseason innings and has saved six of the Braves’ 10 playoff wins.

“I was kind of working to get through the fifth inning so we could give it to our guys,” says Snitker, “and we did that. Hat’s off to our guys that did that, especially Kyle.”

There’s still just one complicating factor, though.

“I’ll be honest with you,” says Snitker, “I don’t know what direction we’re going to go tomorrow yet.”

Snitker had already made the proclamation today and Game 5 and Sunday night will be here quickly. Jesse Chavez was the opener for Game 5, and it is likely that Braves will go with him. A.J. Minter, the last piece of the Braves’ Night Shift bullpen crew, will likely play a significant role.

Minter has allowed eight baserunners to score in just seven innings. He struck out 16 batters over 11 innings. Minter pitched an inning in Friday’s Game 3 but had Saturday off and with a championship to be won, will likely go as long as he can whenever summoned in Game 5.

That was Wright’s mindset Saturday, and the 26-year-old, a teammate of Dansby Swanson’s at Vanderbilt, exceeded everyone’s expectations.

“I felt like I was under control,” he says.

Also, the Braves have the Braves in their corner, the impossible being just nine innings away.

Source: USAToday.com

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