The Atlanta Braves entered tonight’s game tied for the MLB lead in home runs in 2021.
They achieved the lead in tonight’s game by scoring on a sac fly, a bases loaded walk, and when a double play became a force out due to the hustle of Marcell Ozuna.
And for an added exclamation point, they reverted back to their roots with Austin Riley’s first long ball of the campaign in what was an amazing night for him.
Austin Riley gets hit in the face with an outfield throw and somehow just laughs it off pic.twitter.com/5upmRGXnrv— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) April 21, 2021
The Braves and Yankees did not have much working early in the game when it came to offense, as both teams were limited to two hits a piece through four innings. The most exciting moment was when Clint Frazier decided to inadvertently play dodgeball with Austin Riley (he would turn out to be just fine.) Travis d’Arnaud breaking Mike Ford’s glove was a fun moment as well. Both Ian Anderson and Corey Kluber were highly effective to start the game. However, the Braves decided it was time to get to work in the top of the fifth inning.
Pablo Sandoval singled to start the inning, and Austin Riley walked (his seventh of the year!) after a Dansby Swanson strikeout. Guillermo Heredia also reached base via a walk, which allowed Ehire Adrianza to earn the Braves their first run of the game on a sacrifice fly. After an intentional pass to Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna earned his first RBI of the evening with a bases loaded walk. Four walks and a sac fly allowed the Braves to earn a 2-0 lead.
Anderson continued to work through the Yankees lineup with ease, as neither team created another scoring opportunity through the end of the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh inning, the Braves went to work again. Riley continued his perfect night with a single, followed by Heredia reaching on an error and a sacrifice bunt by Adrianza. After another intentional walk to Freeman, Ozuna reached via some great hustle to turn a sure double play into a force out to make the score 3-0.
Anderson returned in the bottom of the seventh inning, and after two quick outs, loaded the bases via a single and two walks. Anderson’s night ended after 6 2⁄3 innings, a much needed start for both he and the team. Via a crisp 97 pitches, 65 of which were strikes, he allowed four hits, four walks, zero earned runs and four strikeouts. Though he may have had more dominant starts in his young career, Anderson showed the true potential he has as a front of the rotation pitcher by delivering an excellent performance on a big stage.
A.J. Minter tonight:— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) April 22, 2021
Pitches out of a bases-loaded jam ✔️
Pitches shutout 8th inning ✔️ pic.twitter.com/KLKKgSxwBo
A.J. Minter, who has had his struggles early this season, was brought in to replace Anderson. Awaiting him was one of the best hitters in baseball, D.J. Lemahieu, with the bases loaded. This time, Minter delivered as Lemahieu’s scorching groundball was stopped by Riley to end the threat and preserve the lead. After the Braves went down in order in the top of the eighth inning, Minter worked around a walk to Aaron Judge to keep the Yankees quiet in the bottom of the inning.
Austin Riley.— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) April 22, 2021
Insurance Agent. pic.twitter.com/P5HNRzt40k
In the top of the ninth inning, Riley decided to put the cherry on the top of his wonderful evening with his first home run of the season. The Braves were unable to cash in a runner at third with two outs to end the inning, but carried a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Will Smith was called upon to win the game and, unfortunately, once again ran into a bit of trouble as he walked Aaron Hicks who later scored on a single by Frazier. However, Smith ended the game by getting Lemahieu to fly out to Ozuna to end the game and earn the Braves a 4-1 win.
It was a needed night of encouraging signs. Ian Anderson had his best start of the year, Austin Riley had his best game in a very long time, and the Braves found ways to score by putting the ball in play and being patient. Though it may not have been as impressive as other victories, it could be the most important one of the year so far as it is one the Braves can enjoy on the off day tomorrow. Furthermore, with a bit of a lighter part of the schedule coming up and a few important pieces hopefully returning over the weekend, this could be a needed start to a successful stretch for Atlanta.