ATLANTA — Austin Riley has heated up over the past few days and then erupted in thunderous fashion Thursday night as the Braves cruised to an 8-5 win over the Phillies at Truist Park.
Riley stole the spotlight with two brutal runs, but a Braves home run contributed to a decisive three-run win. Marcel Ozuna, who scored in the second inning, doubled before scoring on Travis D’Arno’s second-run single. d’Arnaud’s role was reduced with Ozuna getting the most starts with DH and Sean Murphy handling the majority of the catching duties.
But d’Arnaud continued to provide value as he battled for Michael Harris’ second in this major eighth position.
“I love some Travy,” Riley said. “He’s one of a kind, just a team player.”
While the Braves celebrated their second straight win, they saw Riley return to the form he showed when he was named the National League’s Top 10 Most Valuable Player the past two seasons. The veteran baseman produced .948 OPS through his first 17 games, then built up a . 548 OPS over the 22 that followed.
That month-long slump was put into the rearview mirror. Riley has hit . 349 with a 1.047 OPS over the 11 games since.
“He’s been a big part of this team since I got here [in 2020]Darno said. “Seeing him turn things around after that little struggle he had is huge for us going forward.”
Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. hit the second most home runs from over 450 feet in 2018. But he never did what Riley did on Thursday, when he hit a 459-foot homer off Aaron. Nola in the first inning and then hit the veteran Phillies with a 458-foot single in the fifth.
“It shows how strong he is,” Darno said. “Doing it twice in one game is unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve ever done it once in my entire career.”
d’Arnaud actually has two of those, one hitting David Price in 2019 and another hitting against Max Scherzer in 17. But hitting two people that far in a game is pretty rare.
In fact, Riley became only the third player to hit home runs over 455 feet in a game since Statcast began tracking this data in 2015. The others are Rockies’ Trevor Story (September 5, 2018) and Cubs’ Willson Contreras (September 13, 2019). . Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon (May 12, 2019) is the only other player to hit a pair of creepers over 450 feet in a game. Blackmon and Story both made it on hitting-friendly Coors Field.
It was the third and fourth longest ever hit by Riley. He hit a 473-foot home run in St. Louis on April 3.
“The biggest mistake was getting me over the plate,” Riley said. “That was cleaned up. It’s baseball. This game has its ebb and flow. It’s a matter of working every single day and trying to be the best version of yourself.”
It added Riley’s first doubles game of the year and fifth of his career to what was a very productive week. He has four doubles and two homers over his past four games (14 at bats).
So this was definitely not a good time for Nola to come to town. Riley is now 20-for-45 with five homers against Phillies Hurler.
“He’s a good hitter,” Nola said. “He doesn’t miss a lot of balls I throw over the plate.”
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