PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Atlanta Braves are being cautious about Kyle Wright, doing everything they can to make sure their latest potential ace in a lineup seemingly stacked with them can keep the momentum going during their breakout season.
The World Series champions gave Wright a couple of extra days off after starting against Boston earlier this month, leery of his workload. The rest would seem to freshen it up for a stretch.
The 26-year-old had two hits in seven efficient innings and the Braves completed a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh with a 14-2 rout of the sloppy Pirates on Wednesday.
Wright needed just 73 pitches to record 21 outs, but he blew a lead in the eighth as his teammates plated seven runs in the top of the inning, highlighted by Matt Olson’s grand slam that bounced into the Allegheny River.
“I’ve never finished a game in the big leagues, so I’d love to get that,” Wright said. “But runs are cool, too, especially a grand slam.”
Wright and Atlanta manager Brian Snitker briefly discussed letting him continue. After Olson’s 27th home run landed and the Pirates signaled an inning change, making an already long inning even longer, Wright knew his day was over.
“I was a little selfish (wanting to stay),” Wright said. “But it was a great home run.”
Wright (16-5) struck out eight and walked one, tying Houston’s Justin Verlander and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Tony Gonzalino for the most wins in the majors.
Wright, the fifth player taken in the 2017 draft, entered 2022 with a career record of 2-8 with a 6.76 ERA. Those early struggles seem to be completely behind him, one of the reasons why he didn’t protest too much when Snitker didn’t let him out in the eighth.
“It’s more than just one game,” Wright said. “So I want to stay fresh and ultimately it was the right decision to go out and feel good.”
Atlanta has won 14 of 16 overall, keeping the pressure on the Dutch East-leading New York Mets.
“I feel like we can beat you in a lot of ways,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “Like we can pitch and play defense and obviously we can swing a little bit as well.”
The Braves did a little bit of everything in completing a season sweep of Pittsburgh.
Olson fielded a pitch from Pittsburgh reliever Cam Vieau and sent it behind the right-field stands in the eighth for his fifth career grand slam. The ball landed 420 feet from home plate before finding its way to the river on the bounce. It’s the 66th time in PNC Park history that a home run has ended in a splash.
William Contreras added his 17th home run for Atlanta, hitting a pitch from Mitch Keller (4-10) into the bushes over the center field wall in the second inning to give the Braves an early lead. Swanson hit a two-run, bases-clearing double during Atlanta’s five-run fourth, an inning that was extended by an error by Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Van Meter.
The only bright spot for the Pirates was rookie O’Neil Cruz, who threw the hardest ball since Major League Baseball began measuring exit velocity in 2015. The ball flew off Cruz’s bat at 122.4 mph and smashed into Clemente’s 21-foot wall. to right field with two outs in the third. He was kept alone.
“It’s probably a good thing the ball hit the wall because it could have hurt somebody if it was a little higher,” Snitker said of Cruz’s shot, which surpassed the previous mark of 122.2 mph, which he had set twice New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
Pittsburgh’s Kevin Newman hit his first home run of the season in the ninth.
Keller, who was given a couple of extra days of rest after getting hit in the previous opener against Boston, wasn’t particularly sharp. He allowed seven runs, two earned, on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
Pirates: All-Star closer David Bednar (back) is playing catch and could be cleared to throw by the end of next week. … C Roberto Perez, out for the season with a hamstring injury, caught a bullpen side session Tuesday in what the team called part of the “strengthening phase” of his rehab. … RHP Colin Holderman was removed in the eighth with right shoulder discomfort.
Braves: Thursday off before heading to St. Louis for three games against the Central League-leading Cardinals. Spencer Strider (7-4, 2.95 ERA) will face Jose Quintana (4-5, 3.45) on Friday.
Pirates: Travel east to Philadelphia for a three-game series starting Friday. Bryce Wilson (2-7, 5.74) will make his 15th start of the season in the league.