Austin Riley hits two 450+ foot home runs in Atlanta

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ATLANTA – Austin Riley heated up in recent days and erupted in thunderous fashion Thursday night as the Braves claimed an 8-5 victory over the Phillies at Truist Park.

Riley stole the spotlight with two monstrous home runs, but a Braves collection 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 the most starts as DH and Sean Murphy taking on the most catching duties.

But d’Arnaud continued to deliver value as he batted for Michael Harris II in this critical situation in the eighth inning.

“Love me some Travvy,” Riley said. “He’s one of a kind, just a team man.”

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As the Braves celebrated a second straight win, they saw Riley return to the form he showed as he earned top 10 National League MVP Award finishes over the past two seasons. The veteran third baseman produced a .948 OPS in his first 17 games and then built a .548 OPS over the 22 games that followed.

That month-long slump has been put in the rearview mirror. Riley has since hit .349 with an OPS of 1,047 over the 11 games.

“He’s been a big part of this team since I came here (in 2020),” d’Arnaud said. “To see him turn it around after that little struggle he had is huge for us moving forward.”

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Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. has hit the second most home runs over 140 yards since his rookie season in 2018. But he’s never done what Riley did on Thursday, when he hit a 140-yard 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. “It’s incredible to do it twice in one game. I don’t think I’ve ever done it in my entire career.”

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d’Arnaud actually has two such home runs, one he hit against David Price in 2019 and another hit against Max Scherzer in ’17. But hitting two home runs from that distance in a game is pretty rare.

In fact, Riley became only the third player to hit two home runs over 140 yards in a game since Statcast began tracking in 2015. The others were the Rockies’ Trevor Story (September 5, 2018) and the Cubs’ Willson Contreras ( September 13, 2019). Charlie Blackmon of Colorado (May 12, 2019) is the only other player to hit two homers over 450 feet in a game. Blackmon and Story both did this at batter-friendly Coors Field.

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These were the third and fourth longest home runs Riley has hit. He hit a career-long 143-yard home run on April 3 in St. Louis.

“The biggest bug was my attitude at the plate,” said Riley. ‘That’s cleared up. It’s baseball. This game has its ebb and flow. 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 fifth of his career contributed to a very productive week. He has four doubles and two homers in 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 home runs against the Phillies pitcher.

“He’s a good hitter,” Nola said. “He doesn’t miss too many balls that I throw over the plate.”

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