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After Falling Short At Vanderbilt, Kyle Wright and Dansby Swanson Have Braves Within One Win Of A Title



ATLANTA—In the summer of 2015, Dansby Swanson and Kyle Wright experienced their greatest heartbreak on a baseball field.

Swanson was the star junior shortstop and Wright the standout freshman closer on the Vanderbilt team that lost to Virginia in the College World Series finals that year. Vanderbilt won the first game of the best-of-three series to move one win away from a title, but couldn’t close it out. They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning of the decisive Game 3, with Swanson driving in the first run, only to lose 4-2. Wright pitched the final four innings and allowed the final run.

Six years later, they’ve been granted another chance to win a title together on an even bigger stage. On Saturday night, they took advantage of the opportunity in grand fashion to put the Braves one win away from a World Series championship.

Wright held down the Astros offense with 4.2 critical innings of relief and Swanson teamed with Jorge Soler for back-to-back home runs to give the Braves the lead in the seventh, sending Atlanta to a 3-2 win in Game 4 of the World Series. The Braves lead three games to one and can wrap up a title on Sunday in Game 5 at Truist Park.

“We came up short that year and I feel like it still has a little bit of a sour taste in our mouths, so I know we want to finish this thing off strong,” Wright said. “But just to be able to play with Dansby at this moment, this stage, it’s definitely really cool and I don’t think there’s too many guys who have been able to do that, so it’s pretty special.”

The Braves never led until the seventh. With the team trailing 2-1, Swanson lifted an 0-2 fastball from Cristian Javier 359 feet over the right-field fence to tie the score and send the sellout crowd of 43,125 into a frenzy. Four pitches later, Soler, launched a missile into left field that snuck past glove of left fielder Yordan Alvarez and over the short wall in left to put the Braves ahead.

Swanson and Soler became just the third pair of teammates to hit the game-tying and go-ahead home runs back-to-back in a World Series game, joining the Dodgers’ Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager in Game 5 of the 1981 World Series and, naturally, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig for the Yankees in Game 4 of the 1928 World Series.

“Baseball has been around a long time, and for this to be the third time is pretty special,” Swanson said. “…I felt like we kind of grinded all night and it finally came to fruition there that inning. Just special.”

The Braves never would have been in position to come back if not for the unexpected, but greatly welcome, contribution of Wright. The fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft pitched a total of 6.1 innings in the majors this season and allowed seven earned runs, the latest chapter in what has been a disappointing career for the one-time top prospect. His inclusion on the World Series roster merited surprise, especially considering he wasn’t active for either of the first two rounds and had been in Triple-A since late June.

But when lefthander Dylan Lee faltered and let three of the first four batters reach base to begin a scheduled bullpen game, Wright stepped it and put out the fire. He entered with the bases loaded and one out and limited the damage to only one run, inducing a groundout from Carlos Correa and striking out Kyle Tucker on a 96 mph fastball.

He escaped another bases-loaded jam in the third and pitched into the fifth, soaking up critical innings for a Braves pitching staff faced with the daunting task of throwing back-to-back bullpen games. His only blemish was a solo home run allowed to Jose Altuve in the fourth. He finished his night by standing two more runners in the fifth and walked off the mound with one run allowed in 4.2 innings, keeping the game from getting out of hand and the Braves within striking distance.

“He was our closer as a freshman. He’s not shy of the moments like this,” Swanson said. “He’s been in big-time situations ever since I’ve known him. And I feel like that’s one thing I’ve always told (Braves general manager) Alex (Anthopoulos), I said ‘That guy, he’s got it.’ I’ve told (pitching coach Rick Kranitz), ‘He’s got it, I know he does.’ He was nails for us then and he’s obviously been pretty special so far here in this World Series. He’s not shy of the big moments and that’s something that can be gained from our time when we were at school.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker went so far to say, “Kyle was the reason we won the game.”

In Snitker ‘s eyes, the work Wright put this season in at Triple-A Gwinnett this season, where he threw 137 of his 143.1 innings, helped lay the foundation for his World Series success.

“He’s been through a lot in his young career,” Snitker said. “And we’ve created a lot of it, quite honestly, I think.

“The best thing that happened to him was he stayed in Triple-A all year to amass innings and pitch and be successful. The greatest thing these guys can have is experience. I don’t care where it is. Especially as a pitcher. And I think we’ve asked a lot of him in his young career and I love the fact he got to stay down there all year and he put together a really good year. For me, tonight, I saw that. That was a more mature pitcher because he’s experienced more.”

With Wright holding the Astros down, the Braves progressively worked their way back from a 2-0 deficit.

They remained scoreless until the sixth when Austin Riley drilled a two-out, RBI single into left field to halve the Astros lead 2-1. Still, there was a sense they’d missed their opportunity to take the lead when Travis d’Arnaud struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the inning.

But this being the 2021 Braves, they were never really out of it. Swanson and Soler turned a deficit into a lead in two swings, and Luke Jackson and Will Smith each followed with a perfect inning of relief to close it out.

Now the Braves are one win away from their first World Series championship since 1995. For Swanson and Wright in particular, it’s a chance to finally become champions together.

“We have such a special bond,” Swanson said. “The group of guys that played at Vandy or play there now, it’s obviously a unique bond.”

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Former Top Prospects Carried Astros, Braves To 2021 MLB World Series

A combined 49 of the 52 players on World Series rosters this year ranked in at least one Baseball America Prospect Handbook.

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