Braves get World Series rings, beat Reds behind strong start by Kyle Wright

AP photo by John Bazemore / The Atlanta Braves' World Series rings are collected after a ceremony before Saturday night's home game against the Cincinnati Reds.

ATLANTA - Kyle Wright has found his confidence, and the Atlanta Braves hope they have found renewed depth in their rotation.

Wright picked up a World Series ring, along with many of his teammates, then pitched two-hit ball over six scoreless innings in a 2-1 win against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.

"I feel like I'm confident in myself," said Wright, who spent most of the 2021 season at Triple-A Gwinnett before he was promoted to allow one run in 5 2/3 innings in two World Series appearances against the Houston Astros.

"Using the World Series is a great way to boost that confidence," Wright said.

Atlanta won for the second straight night after dropping Thursday's season opener against the Reds. Last year, the Braves didn't have a winning record until they were 57-56 on Aug. 8. They sprinted to their first World Series title since 1995, capped by a six-game victory over the Astros in the Fall Classic.

Wright (1-0) struck out six batters and walked one. He retired 10 consecutive Reds before walking Tommy Pham to open the seventh.

"He just pitched," Reds manager David Bell said of Wright. "He has good stuff for sure, but he located his sinker, changed speeds and kept the ball down. Moved it all around. Really, he was in command and control of exactly what he wanted to do and executed a plan against us."

A.J. Minter got three straight outs, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect eighth and Will Smith got the save, allowing Tommy Pham's two-out walk and Joey Votto's RBI single before Aristides Aquino popped out.

Newly signed closer Kenley Jansen gave up three runs Friday night while throwing 30 pitches in the ninth inning of a 7-6 win. Braves manager Brian Snitker said the 30 pitches were "absolutely" the reason Jansen wasn't asked to pitch back-to-back games.

Wright, a 26-year-old right-hander, enjoyed a strong beginning to what he hopes is a fresh start to his career. The fifth overall pick by Atlanta in the 2017 amateur draft, Wright had a 6.56 ERA in his first four seasons.

Snitker said Wright "figured out who he was" last season in the minors.

"It's great, kind of what you were looking for, what you thought he was capable of," Snitker said of Wright's performance against the Reds.

photo AP photo by John Bazemore / Kyle Wright pitches for the Atlanta Braves in the first inning of Saturday night's home game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Cincinnati right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez (0-1) allowed two runs and on six hits in 4 1/3 innings. Marcell Ozuna's first-inning double drove in Matt Olson, who had singled, and Ozzie Albies' sacrifice fly brought home Austin Riley.

Olson was thrown out at the plate in the third and seventh innings. Shortstop Kyle Farmer's relay from left fielder Jake Fraley to catcher Aramis Garcia caught Olson in the third. Aquino's throw to the plate from left field nailed Olson, who tried to score from second on Ozuna's single, his third hit of the game.

The Braves acquired Olson from the Oakland Athletics after realizing they would not be able to re-sign longtime first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose free agency ended when he received a six-year deal from the Los Angeles Dodgers last month.

"If anybody wrote in the scouting report from Oakland that I'm fast, they lied," Olson said, smiling.

Aquino's throw was clocked at 101.6 mph.

"That makes me feel a little better," Olson said.

The Braves received their World Series rings in a pregame ceremony. The massive ring carries 755 diamonds, a tribute to Braves legend Hank Aaron's career home runs total.

The ring also includes a white pearl on the right side, a nod to the pearl necklace worn last season by Joc Pederson, who signed with the San Francisco Giants in the offseason.

"When they showed it to me, my jaw dropped open," Snitker said.

Freeman will be presented his ring when the Dodgers visit Atlanta for a June 24-26 series.

Right-hander Hunter Greene, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2017 draft by Cincinnati, will make his much anticipated MLB debut Sunday when he faces Atlanta righty Ian Anderson in the series finale. The hard-throwing Greene, 22, was 10-8 with a 3.30 ERA last year at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville.

Anderson (9-5, 3.58 ERA in 2021) who left his last spring training start Monday due to a blister on his right big toe, is not expected to have any limitations in his regular-season debut.

Braves catcher Manny Piña, dealing with a sore left wrist, took batting practice Saturday. The Braves avoided an injured list stint for Piña because William Contreras, who started Saturday night, is on the roster as a third catcher behind Travis d'Arnaud.

On the injury front for the Reds, right-handed pitcher Lucas Sims could be ready to join the team within two weeks and allow another option as closer. Sims opened the season on the 10-day IL after offseason health challenges put him behind his normal spring training schedule. Sims is expected to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville this week, and Bell said Sims could join the Reds as soon as April 20.