Braves sweep on Riley's walk-off, edge closer in NL East

July 11th, 2022

ATLANTA -- Austin Riley came through as the hero twice, with the game-tying and game-winning hits, in Atlanta’s come-from-behind 4-3 win. The Braves have won their last four series after completing a sweep against the Nationals in Sunday's victory at Truist Park.

Ian Anderson exited the sixth inning with two runners on base, and Dylan Lee promptly gave up a go-ahead three-run homer to pinch-hitting Lane Thomas. The right-handed starter was able to get through 5 1/3 innings of scoreless work, allowing just two hits and two walks until he gave up back-to-back walks to Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz that led to the go-ahead homer in the sixth, leaving a sour taste in his mouth after what had been a good outing.

“It’s not ideal, obviously, then to see those two guys score, you wish you hadn't done it,” Anderson said about giving up the walks to end his performance. “The Soto one you’re kind of fine with, but the Cruz one, that's the one that I was thinking ‘double play’ the whole time, and I just couldn't execute.”

The four walks marked the fifth time in 2022 that Anderson had allowed four or more walks, and he has yet to make an appearance this season where he hasn't allowed a walk. Since making his debut on August 26, 2020, Anderson only has two appearances in which he gave up no walks -- in a 4-2 loss to Miami on Sept. 24, 2020, and in a 20-1 win over Pittsburgh on May 21, 2021.

All seemed bleak for the Braves without a run in four straight innings, but a one-run lead isn't safe with Atlanta's offense. Austin Riley ignited the crowd that had fallen silent with a game-tying 410-foot homer in the eighth.

Four innings after his game-tying blast, Riley came back to the plate with the task of bringing in the winning run. With Dansby Swanson placed as the runner at second in the 12th, and Matt Olson, who had been intentionally walked to get to Riley, on first, the Braves third baseman blasted a single into the left-field corner to score the clinching run for Atlanta.

Although the 25-year-old was not one of the five Braves to receive an invitation to the 2022 All-Star game, he has proven to be one of the most dangerous hitters in the Majors this season. Over his last seven games, Riley is 13-for-29 (.448) with three homers. He currently sits 10th in the Majors in hits (94), 11th in RBIs (56), fifth in homers (23), eighth in slugging percentage (.559) and ninth in OPS (.908).

But it was the Braves bullpen that gave Riley a chance in extra innings, holding the Nationals to just one run over 6 2/3 innings. Darren O'Day, Tyler Matzek, Jesse Chavez and Collin McHugh were able to shut the door on Washington after the sixth, giving up just two hits and two walks over the final six innings.

“Those guys are one of the best bullpens, if not the best in the league,” Anderson said. “For them to go out there and do what they did, keep us right there, I had a feeling our offense was going to find a way. It's just a good all-around, feel-good team win right there.”

Chavez and McHugh tossed two crucial innings each to keep the Braves tied from the ninth to the 12th innings.

“He’s been amazing, like fine wine,” manager Brian Snitker said about Chavez’s success as a veteran reliever.

With the Mets’ 2-0 loss to the Marlins, the Braves are just a game and a half back from first place in the National League East, with the Mets coming to town to begin a three-game series on Monday.

“We're not going to clinch the division this week,” Snitker said about the upcoming series. “We've got a long way to go, got another half. We're playing good baseball, and it's gonna be a good series.”