Matzek savoring Braves' run: 'I was out of baseball in 2017'

Daniel Shirey / Major League Baseball / Getty

Tyler Matzek is a big part of why the Atlanta Braves are returning to the World Series for the first time since 1999, but the left-hander nearly had his baseball career end four years ago.

"I was out of baseball in 2017," Matzek said following Saturday's win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to The Associated Press. "Now I'm in the World Series."

Matzek struggled with the yips after the Colorado Rockies selected him in the first round of the 2009 draft, leading Colorado and multiple subsequent clubs to release him before the Braves took a shot on him ahead of the 2020 season.

Atlanta signed the southpaw to a two-year minor-league deal after general manager Alex Anthopoulos received a recommendation from vice president of scouting Dana Brown, who saw Matzek pitch for an independent-league team.

The move has paid huge dividends for the Braves, especially during the 2021 playoffs. Matzek has appeared in nine postseason games, authoring a 1.74 ERA and 0.77 WHIP with 17 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings. Four of those punchouts came during two critical innings Saturday.

Matzek entered Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in the seventh inning with two on and no outs after Luke Jackson allowed three consecutive runners to reach base, shrinking Atlanta's lead to two runs in the process. The 31-year-old struck out Albert Pujols, Steven Souza Jr., and Mookie Betts to get the Braves out of the inning.

Matzek returned to pitch the eighth, sitting down the heart of the Dodgers' order by striking out Corey Seager and getting groundouts from Trea Turner and Will Smith.

"Tyler Nutsack," Jackson said of his teammate, according to Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein. "That's what everyone calls him because he's got to drag those huge balls out to the mound every night."

Matzek savoring Braves' run: 'I was out of baseball in 2017'
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