Riley exits early in Braves' loss to Mets

May 13th, 2024

NEW YORK -- Losing an All-Star third baseman who has been providing Gold Glove-caliber defense is far more destructive than losing one game in the middle of May.

So, until the Braves get to re-evaluate Austin Riley’s left oblique on Monday, they won’t know if the damage incurred on Sunday night extends beyond a 4-3 loss to the Mets at Citi Field.

“I’m hoping he plays [Monday], I don’t know if he will,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We’ll know once we get back [to Atlanta] and they see him and test him and all of that. We’ll know [Monday].”

It looked like the Mets might have lost Brandon Nimmo to a possible oblique strain when he exited Saturday’s game. But Nimmo prevented a Braves sweep when he made a midgame entry on Sunday and hit a two-run walk-off homer against A.J. Minter, who was used as a closer with both Raisel Iglesias and Joe Jiménez unavailable.

There was nothing for the Braves to like about the Nimmo homer, beyond it providing hope that Riley might realize a similar recovery.

“I think we’re just going to see how my body feels once I wake up,” Riley said. “I think that will tell us a lot.”

Riley felt some discomfort in batting practice, but he didn’t say anything to the team’s medical staff because he thought it was just normal soreness often felt during a 162-game season. The ailment became apparent in the third inning, when he favored his left side after whiffing to end a strikeout.

Still, the discomfort wasn’t significant enough for him to exit until the bottom of the fourth, when he was replaced by at third base. The Braves immediately announced Riley was removed as a precaution with left side tightness.

“If we’re not careful, you take a swing and [the oblique] goes and it’s just like [’s oblique injury] and you miss two months,” Snitker said.

Fortunately for the Braves, this ailment doesn’t appear to be as severe as the one that has sidelined Murphy since Opening Day. Murphy whiffed, immediately dropped his bat in obvious pain and minutes later made his way to the clubhouse.

Snitker confirmed Murphy would go on the injured list as soon as that game concluded in Philadelphia. Riley’s situation wasn’t even concerning enough for him to check with the medical staff before addressing the media after Sunday’s game.

So, it seems the Braves are hopeful that Riley is dealing with something similar to the short-term discomfort that sidelined Nimmo for just half a game.

“We’re trying to be smart in the way we go about this versus trying to play through it,” Riley said. “Hopefully, we can get on top of it and not miss a whole lot.”

If the Braves need somebody to play third base for just a few days, they could give the role to Short, who joined the Braves on Friday after being dispatched by the Mets and Red Sox over the past couple of weeks.

Short went 1-for-9 for the Mets before being designated for assignment on April 26. But he still managed to draw a pair of walks in his first two plate appearances of his Braves debut. He scored on Ozuna’s sixth-inning single and then crossed the plate when the veteran slugger tallied a go-ahead single in the eighth.

Ozuna leads the National League with 12 homers and the Majors with 40 RBIs. He stands with Hank Aaron as the only Braves to drive in 40-plus runs through the team’s first 37 games. Aaron had 44 RBIs through 37 games in 1959 and 41 RBIs through 37 games in 1970.

Unfortunately for the Braves, this was another night when the offensive production didn’t extend far beyond Ozuna. Jarred Kelenic homered for the second time in his past four games. Ronald Acuña Jr. singled and walked, but also got picked off first base twice.

“That’s two good moves,” Snitker said. “I just kind of noticed now that where first basemen are playing, they are getting the ball on those guys quicker than they used to. They aren’t getting tagged at the bag. They’re getting tagged out away, too.”

It was a subdued clubhouse as Acuña sat in front of his locker and Minter lamented giving up another home run. Each of the seven runs he has allowed this year have come courtesy of the long ball, two of which have been hit by Nimmo.

This was a tough loss, but the extent of the damage depends on how quickly Riley recovers.