Riley's power surging with 917 feet on 2 HRs
Braves prevail in first meeting with Phillies after d'Arnaud's pinch-hit heroics
ATLANTA -- Austin Riley heated up over the past few days and then erupted in a thunderous manner Thursday night as the Braves claimed an 8-5 win over the Phillies at Truist Park.
Riley stole the spotlight with two monstrous home runs, but a collection of Braves contributed to the decisive three-run eighth. Marcell Ozuna, who homered in the second inning, doubled before scoring on Travis d'Arnaud’s go-ahead two-run single. d’Arnaud’s role has been reduced with Ozuna getting most of the starts as DH and Sean Murphy handling a majority of the catching duties.
But d’Arnaud continued to provide value as he batted for Michael Harris II in this key eighth-inning situation.
“I love me some Travvy,” Riley said. “He’s one of a kind, just a team guy.”
As the Braves celebrated a second straight win, they have seen Riley getting back to the form he showed when earning top 10 National League MVP Award finishes the past two seasons. The veteran third baseman produced a .948 OPS through his first 17 games and then constructed a .548 OPS over the 22 games that followed.
That month-long slump has been put in the rear-view mirror. Riley has hit .349 with a 1.047 OPS over the 11 games since.
“He’s been a huge part of this team since I got here [in 2020],” d’Arnaud said. “To see him turn it around after that little struggle he had is huge for us moving forward.”
Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. has hit the second-most home runs of 450-plus feet going back to his rookie season in 2018. But he has never done what Riley did on Thursday, when he hit a 459-foot homer off Aaron Nola in the first inning and then damaged the Phillies veteran with a 458-foot solo shot in the fifth.
“It shows how strong he is,” d’Arnaud said. “To do it twice in one game is incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever done it once my whole career.”
d’Arnaud does in fact have two such homers, one he hit against David Price in 2019 and another hit against Max Scherzer in '17. But hitting two homers of that distance in a game is quite rare.
In fact, Riley became just the third player with two home runs of 455-plus feet in a game since Statcast began tracking this data in 2015. The others were the Rockies' Trevor Story (Sept. 5, 2018) and the Cubs' Willson Contreras (Sept. 13, 2019). Colorado's Charlie Blackmon (May 12, 2019) is the only other player to hit two homers of 450-plus feet in a game. Blackmon and Story both did this at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
These were the third- and fourth-longest homers Riley has hit. He hit a career-long 473-foot home run in St. Louis on April 3.
“The biggest bug has been my posture out over the plate,” Riley said. “That’s been cleaned up. It’s baseball. This game has its ebbs and flows. It’s a matter of working every day and just trying to be the best version of yourself.”
Riley’s first two-homer game of the year and the fifth of his career added to what has been a very productive week. He has four doubles and two homers over his past four games (14 at-bats).
So this certainly wasn’t a good time for Nola to come to town. Riley is now 20-for-45 with five homers against the Phillies hurler.
“He's a good hitter,” Nola said. “He doesn't miss too many balls I throw over the plate."