x
Breaking News
More () »

Tyler Matzek, who overcame 'yips' to save his career, saves the day for Braves

It's hard for a middle reliever to be the hero of a World Series clinching game, but Matzek did it Saturday night.

ATLANTA — In a game that sends your team to the World Series, it's pretty hard to overshadow the three-run homer that effectively won the game.

It's especially hard to do as a middle reliever - people remember the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the electricity a big hit generates. 

Usually a middle reliever's job is just to keep things humming, tick one inning over into the next without letting disaster strike - the sort of job where the less people specifically remember about how you did it usually indicates you did it right.

RELATED: How to get tickets to see the Braves in the World Series in Atlanta

But that was not the case for Tyler Matzek in Game 6.

Matzek, whose path to joining the Braves last year involves a remarkable and inspiring backstory, might have produced the most consequential, game-changing and, yes, electric middle relief appearance in team history.

He came on in relief in the seventh inning with one run already in, cutting what was a 4-1 lead to 4-2, and Dodgers baserunners on second and third with nobody out.

One hit would have tied the game. Even consecutive sacrifice flies would have erased the tenuous Atlanta lead.

Instead, Matzek first struck out Albert Pujols. Then he struck out Steven Souza, Jr.

Then he faced Mookie Betts - one of the best hitters in baseball, and one of the hottest of the postseason. With the margin between preserving the two-run lead and a tie ball game still razor thin, Matzek struck him out too.

It was an unbelievable high-wire act to save the game, and the strikeout of Betts might have gotten an even louder roar than Eddie Rosario's home run a few innings prior.

For good measure, Matzek returned in the eighth inning and recorded a 1-2-3 frame.

It was a remarkable capstone to Matzek's return to baseball. The team's official beat writer, Mark Bowman, recounted the left-hander's story when he first joined the team last year.

The short of it is the 31-year-old - who celebrated his birthday this week - had his career derailed by the "yips." Basically, he stopped being able to throw strikes.

Once the 11th pick in the 2009 MLB Draft and considered a future star for the Colorado Rockies, he walked 19 batters in just 22 innings to start the 2015 season, his second in the big leagues.

Colorado sent him down to Triple-A, where he was even worse - 25 walks in 13 2/3 innings, and a cartoonishly bad 11.20 ERA.

The problems continued the next season, and he spent the next two years out of organized baseball.

He reportedly met with a number of medical and mental health specialists before getting over the anxiety that had wrecked his ability to pitch.

“I feel comfortable now. I feel that is over with," he told Bowman last year.

And on Saturday night, he proved it. 

The lefty handled the most pressure-packed situation he may ever face in baseball with dominance - and became a Braves hero forever in the process.