It seems this week is a banner week for Braves’ third baseman. After Jake Lamb had arguably his best game of the Spring yesterday, Austin Riley decided to follow-up with more of the same today. Riley’s numbers entering the day were at a .200 batting average with a .459 OPS. But after his first two at-bats today, those numbers sky-rocketed to a .250 average and .764 OPS for the Spring.
Amazing what a bit of success in a short sample size can do for production numbers.
Austin Riley 442-ft, 107.7-mph home run szn pic.twitter.com/SClTgzFvPK— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) March 24, 2021
Riley did not waste time at all making sure that his presence was felt. With two out and the count 1-2, Riley launched a slider over the batter’s eye in center field for a 442-foot home run to the give the Braves a 1-0 lead. The fact that he hit his first homerun of the Spring was one thing; the fact that he hit it as far as he did is a reminder of just how much power Riley is capable of displaying at any time.
There were more young Braves on display today than just Riley. Ian Anderson took the mound for the Braves, and worked around some trouble in the first few innings, as he allowed two hits and a walk but no runs. As the Braves remained scoreless themselves, the Pirates seized the opportunity to tie the game on an Adam Frazier solo home run in the bottom of the third.
However, Riley was ready to answer with another long ball in the top of the fourth inning.
Austin Riley 2nd homer of the game szn— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) March 24, 2021
106.4 mph pic.twitter.com/TOwP4kYqLP
While the distance of each home run certainly is significant, the way Riley ended his at-bats is highly encouraging. On both a slider and a 94-MPH fastball, Riley stayed patient and disciplined and drove through the ball with authority. These are the type of instances that show why many feel Riley could be a prime candidate for a breakout performance this season. Riley’s second bomb of the day also allowed Atlanta to take a 3-1 lead.
The Braves and Pirates remained scoreless through the bottom of the sixth. Atlanta could not take advantage of a leadoff double in the top of the fifth inning; however, despite giving up some hits, Anderson continued to work out of jams without allowing any further runs. That luck unfortunately ran out in the bottom of the sixth inning. Two singles, a double, a costly error, and a sacrifice fly allowed the Pirates to take the lead, 4-3. Anderson retired the side when Dustin Fowler was caught stealing after a single.
On the day, Anderson threw 87 pitches, 53 of which were strikes, over six innings. He allowed eight hits, four earned runs, a home run, one walk, and one strikeout. Anderson’s velocity was certainly there and he was efficient. Though he did not have his best hit and miss stuff, Anderson did show his ability to work out of trouble on several occasions. Overall, an decent outing from Anderson in perhaps his second to last outing before the start of the season.
The Braves once again had a leadoff double to work with from Pablo Sandoval in the top of the seventh, and once again missed an opportunity to score. Carl Edwards struggled in the bottom of the seventh, allowing two hits and a walk, but did not allow a run to keep the score at 4-3. After the Braves went down in order in the top of the eighth inning, A.J. allowed a home run to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning. Three singles mixed in with three outs later, the Pirates had extended their lead to 6-3.
The Braves hoped to make a bit of noise in their final at-bats. Johan Camargo singled with one out, and Spring Training Sensation Ehire Adrianza came to the plate with only one out left. Unfortunately, no heroics were in play today, as Adrianza grounded out to end the game.
Overall, the two bombs from Riley were certainly encouraging. However, only five hits and one walk on the Day for Atlanta’s offense, as the Braves pitching staff also had its struggles. While only Swanson and Riley were the two regulars that played, hopefully the Braves will have better showings as they wrap Spring Training over the next week.