It’s hard to overstate what Bryse Wilson and the Atlanta Braves did last night in Arlington.
Please pardon the Biblical-level imagery here, but on the baseball scale, this was indeed a ‘David slays Goliath’ kind of moment as the Atlanta Braves knocked off the Los Angeles Dodgers to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series.
Wilson has made 15 appearances in his MLB career, and he has lasted more than five innings just once. That suggests the Braves will have to heavily rely on their bullpen Thursday.
We can now make that “twice” as Wilson dominated one of the top offenses in the majors, recording his best start ever by giving up just one hit, 1 run, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts over six full innings.
Against a fastball-hitting team, he pounded the zone with well-located fastballs at the sides and lower edge of the zone: all together, it was a remarkable 50 strikes in 74 efficient pitches.
The Dodgers seemingly came in with the idea of ambushing Wilson’s offerings in the same manner as they did with Kyle Wright the day before. Not so fast as Wilson turned the tables on them, working both quickly and deliberately all night, save for a lone homer allowed to Edwin Rios.
But while the final score was 10-2 in the favor of the Atlanta Braves, it wasn’t like Wilson was able to breeze through the Dodger lineup with this cushy 8-run lead in his pocket: not at all, in fact.
The Dodgers scored first with that Rios homer in the 3rd and even when manager Brian Snitker decided that he’d ridden this Wilson hot streak as long as he dared, the score was tied at 1-all.
Indeed, Wilson pitched his tail off under the intensity of a playoff game that allowed him no luxury for making any major mistakes. And besides a lonely solo homer, he didn’t.
This was, then, a match for his longest outing ever, equalling a 6 inning affair against Philadelphia on July 3rd last season. On that day, he allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out five Phillies.
That said, this start last night was on whole ‘nother level… perhaps even two or three levels above that, as Wilson finished his night with 1/2/3 innings in both the 5th and 6th — getting 3 strikeouts in the 5th and setting down Mookie Betts and Corey Seager to complete things in a nice, tidy manner.
What of this Giant?
So while 22-year-old Bryse Wilson and his career 5.91 ERA and 42.2 major league innings spread over 3 seasons — with only 15.2 of them this year — was being tested in this NLCS crucible, there was also this looming presence on the other side: Clayton Kershaw.
Even early on last night, the broadcast referred to him as a future first-ballot Hall of Famer… and why not? 354 starts, 3 Cy Young awards (and 2nd place twice), an 8-time All-Star, 2333 innings pitched, 32 years old, and a lifetime 175-76 record with a WHIP of 1.003 along with an average ERA of 2.43.
Yes: even among his peers, Kershaw is truly a giant.
Oh, and he’d been better than that during this season: 2.16 ERA with a paltry 0.84 WHIP. But let’s look at just his career starts against Atlanta:
- 5/8/2019: Win. 6.2 innings; 4 earned runs.
- 7/27/2018: Win. 7.2 IP; 1 ER.
- 7/23/2017: No decision. 2.0 IP; 0 ER.
- 6/4/2016: Win. 6.0 IP; 0 ER.
- 4/21/2016: ND. 8.0 IP; 1 ER.
- 5/26/2015: Win. 7.0 IP; 0 ER.
- 7/31/2014: Win. 9.0 IP; 1 ER.
- 4/21/2011: ND. 8.2 IP; 3 ER.
- 6/4/2010: ND. 6.2 IP; 3 ER.
- 8/8/2009: ND. 7.0 IP; 0 ER.
- 2013 NLDS: 2 games, 1 Win. 13 IP; 1 ER.
- 2018 NLDS: 1 game, 1 Win. 8 IP; 0 ER.
- 2020 NLCS: 1 game, LOSS. 5 IP, 4 ER.
In case you’re curious, those prior 13 starts add up to a 7-0 record over 90.1 innings with a cumulative ERA vs. Atlanta of 1.398. Only once over 13 seasons had the Braves hung 4 earned runs on him and they had never directly beaten him… until now.
The oddsmakers and “industry pundits” on both the MLB Network and MLB Network Radio all figured the Dodgers would walk away with this game: the Vegas consensus was that Atlanta was a +185 underdog with the Dodgers a heavy -220 favorite.
Guess again, boys.
What a time for the Braves to hang a loss on Kershaw — finally… and what a time for Wilson to turn in his best performance ever.
A Slaying Done Well
During this season for the Braves, it’s been almost routine to guess whether ‘still-wet-behind-the-ears pitcher X’ might have earned another start.
Not only has Bryse Wilson done that, but such a ‘next start’ would come in the World Series next week. Well done.
The Atlanta Braves are but one win away from getting there as they have now pushed the juggernaut Dodgers to the brink.
Maybe now everybody will be able to at least spell his name correctly. He’s earned that, too.
Mind you — this is far from the only example.
Friday night… 9PM Eastern time… they get to go for the jugular.