Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A four home run first-inning turned out to be more than enough for Bryse Wilson to earn his fourth Major League victory.
On a weekend where the notorious Chicago wind blew out of Wrigley Field, Wilson calmed down after a shaky start to help the Atlanta Braves rout the Chicago Cubs 13-4 on Sunday night.
Wilson actually had a plate appearance before he threw his first pitch. That’s because the Braves hit four home runs in the first inning. All of the dingers came off of Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks, who came the first pitcher in the 145-year history of the franchise to surrender four home runs in the first inning. Freddie Freeman, Travis d’Arnaud, Ehire Adrianza and Guillermo Heredia all hit dingers in the first inning.
It was the first time the Braves hit four home runs in the first inning since May 28, 2003 against Cincinnati.
Wilson allowed three runs over five innings, including two homers to Anthony Rizzo. The five home runs in the first inning was the most in a Major League game since a Houston-Baltimore game on August 19, 2016.
“Bryse kept it together and righted himself after a shaky first inning,” said Atlanta Manager Brian Snitker, a member of the Durham Bulls during its Carolina League days in the mid-1980s. “He throws the ball really well.”
After Rizzo’s homer, Chicago’s Kris Bryant scored after a throwing error by Atlanta third baseman Austin Riley to narrow Atlanta’s lead to 6-2.
Wilson required 31 pitches to get out of the first inning, but he needed just 38 pitches over the next four innings to earn the win.
In the second inning, Wilson allowed a leadoff double to Chicago’s David Bote, who was immediately thrown out at third after Hendricks attempted a sacrifice bunt. Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman retired Bote. Ian Happ flew out to Heredia and Willson Contreas grounded out to Riley to end the inning.
Rizzo hit his second homer of the game to lead off the third and cut Atlanta’s lead to 6-3. Wilson retired the rest of the Cubs’ order in just seven pitches, striking out Javier Baez on three tosses to end the inning.
Atlanta right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered a lower abdominal injury as he slid into first base during a pickoff attempt in the fourth inning. Acuna eventually scored off a sacrifice fly from d’Arnaud to extend the Braves lead to 7-3, but left the game shortly afterwards.
Wilson retired the Cubs in order in the fourth inning. In the fifth inning, Contreras reached on an infield single, but Rizzo lined into an unassisted double play by Freeman, who doubled Contreras off first. It turned out to be the final pitch of Wilson’s night.
In the top of the sixth, Heredia put the game on ice with a grand slam to center to vault the Braves into a 13-3 lead. Wilson got another at-bat before he was replaced in the bottom of the inning. He struck out swinging.
It was Wilson’s first start since Game 4 of the 2020 National League Championship Series, where he outdueled Los Angeles Dodgers Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw to win 10-2 and bring the Braves on the brink of its first National League Championship since 1999.
Wilson’s background in football at Orange High was a constant source of discussion for ESPN play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian and colorman Alex Rodriguez during Sunday night’s broadcast. Vasgersian mentioned that Wilson originally committed to play baseball at UNC before opting to sign with the Braves organization straight out of Orange High, where he led the Panthers to four consecutive Big 8 Conference Baseball Championships. He was also a member of Orange’s varsity football team from 2013-2016, where he was a linebacker, running back, wide receiver and backup quarterback under head coach Pat Moser.