MLB: Scorching Austin Riley, Braves to host hot Phillies
When you start breaking records held by Hall of Famers like Henry Aaron and Chipper Jones, people start to take notice. That’s what Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley is learning in the midst of his current offensive streak.
Riley and the Braves, fresh off a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, will host the Philadelphia Phillies for two games starting Tuesday.
To kick off the new month of August, the Braves rewarded Riley with a 10-year, $212 million contract extension that includes a $20 million club option for 2033.
Riley, considered the favorite to be named National League Player of the Month for July, went 6-for-12 with four doubles, a homer and four RBIs in the three games against Arizona. Riley finished the month with 26 extra-base hits, breaking Aaron’s franchise record of 25 set in July 1961.
“That’s a pretty stellar man he just passed,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s pretty surreal. He’s either hitting the ball through the wall or over the wall or both. The at-bats are just incredible.”
Riley batted .423 with 11 homers in July to become the first Brave to hit .400 and have at least 10 homers in a month since Jones did it in July 1999.
In 101 games, Riley is batting .301 and slugging .604, with 29 homers and 68 RBIs. He ranks second in the National League in homers behind Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber, sixth in RBIs and first in slugging percentage.
“I don’t even think ‘hot’ is giving enough credit to what he’s been able to do,” Atlanta pitcher Max Fried said. “You see guys go through stretches where they’re seeing the ball well and hitting the ball hard for a series, a week. But for him to do it for a whole month, that’s extremely special.”
The Phillies have been hitting the ball, too, even without Bryce Harper, who has been out with a broken left thumb since being hit by a pitch on June 25.
Schwarber hit 10 homers and drove in 16 runs in July, despite a .168 batting average. In 10 games against Atlanta this season, Schwarber is only batting .118 (4-for-34), but has three homers, six RBIs and seven walks.
Philadelphia’s hottest hitter is Alec Bohm, whose .434 average was the league’s highest for July. The third baseman is batting .390 in 10 games against the Braves. He became the first Phillies player to hit .400 in a month since Carlos Ruiz batting .418 in May 2012.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto has gotten hot, too. He has reached base in 13 straight games since July 10, going 19-for-46 (.413) with four doubles, three homers, 11 RBIs and seven walks in that stretch.
“I just feel like I’ve gotten back to what I did in the past, stayed with a more consistent approach,” Realmuto said. “I just have more confidence now than I had early in the year and I’m just trying to ride the wave.”
The Phillies have won five in a row and took two of three from the Braves last week in Philadelphia.
Atlanta will start rookie right-hander Spencer Strider (5-3, 2.91 ERA) in the series opener. Philadelphia will go with a bullpen day after scheduled starter Kyle Gibson was placed on the bereavement list following the death of his grandmother.
Strider beat the Phillies last Tuesday when he allowed one run in six innings with six strikeouts in a 6-3 Braves win.
–Field Level Media