ATLANTA — Austin Riley has warmed up over the past few days, then burst into thunderous fashion Thursday night as the Braves cruised to an 8-5 win over the Phillies at Truist Park.
Riley stole the show with two monstrous homers, but a collection of Braves contributed to the decisive eighth three-run. Marcell Ozuna, who homered in the second inning, doubled up before scoring on Travis d’Arnaud’s two-run single. Arnaud’s role has been reduced, with Ozuna getting most of the starts while DH and Sean Murphy handle the majority of catching duties.
But d’Arnaud continued to provide value as he beat for Michael Harris II in that key round eight situation.
“I like me a bit of Travvy,” Riley said. “He’s one of a kind, just a team guy.”
As the Braves celebrated a second straight win, they saw Riley return to the form he showed by earning top 10 National League MVP awards the past two seasons. The veteran third baseman produced a .948 OPS in his first 17 games and then built a .548 OPS in the next 22 games.
This month-long crisis has been put in the rearview mirror. Riley has hit .349 with a 1.047 OPS in the 11 games since.
“He’s been an integral part of this team since I arrived here (in 2020),” d’Arnaud said. “To see him turn around after this little struggle he had is huge for us moving forward.”
Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. has hit the second-most home runs over 450 feet since his rookie season in 2018. But he never did what Riley did on Thursday, when he hit a 459 foot circuit off Aaron. Nola in the first inning, then damaged the Phillies veteran with a solo shot from 458 feet in the fifth.
“It shows how strong he is,” d’Arnaud said. “To do it twice in a game is amazing. I don’t think I’ve done it once in my entire career.
d’Arnaud actually has two such homers, one he hit against David Price in 2019 and another against Max Scherzer in 17. But hitting two homers that distance in a game is pretty rare.
In fact, Riley became only the third player with two homers over 455 feet in a game since Statcast began tracking that data in 2015. The others were Trevor Story of the Rockies (September 5, 2018) and Willson of the Cubs. Contreras (September 13, 2019). Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon (May 12, 2019) is the only other player to homer twice over 450 feet in one game. Both Blackmon and Story did it at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
They are 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 was my posture over the plate,” Riley said. “It’s been cleaned up. It’s baseball. This game has its ups and downs. It’s about working every day and trying to be the best version of yourself.
Riley’s first two-home run game of the year and fifth of his career added to what was a very productive week. He has four doubles and two homers in his last four games (14 at bats).
So it was definitely not the right time for Nola to come to town. Riley is now 20 for 45 with five home runs against the Phillies pitcher.
“He’s a good hitter,” Nola said. “I don’t miss too many balls that I throw over the plate.”