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It turns out, a four game series with one of, if not the worst team in Major League Baseball was exactly what this year’s Braves team needed to jumpstart their offense. The Braves series win over Pittsburgh reminded me of how collegiate football teams schedule cupcakes at the beginning of the season for a tune-up. This past series between the Braves & Pirates looked like Alabama vs. Louisiana-Monroe or basically any SEC team vs. Vanderbilt.
The Braves outscored Pittsburgh 37-9 over the four game bundle. The only game Pittsburgh scored more than one run was in Game 1, it was all downhill for the Pirates from there. Simultaneously, things would only improve for Braves third baseman, Austin Riley.
Austin was 8 for 12 on the series with four homeruns & nine RBI. He also had two, 2- homerun games; the only multi-homerun games of his career. He also has an eight-game hitting streak going right now, where he’s 14 for 28 (.500) with six homeruns, eleven RBI, & ten runs scored. Safe to say he’s the hottest third baseman in Major League Baseball right now.
Just a bit more on Austin Riley: during this past offseason, every time someone asked for my “breakout candidate” for this year’s Braves team I said Austin Riley; no hesitation, no extra thought necessary. He can tear the cover off the ball, he has the strength to hit the ball farther the opposite way than most MLB hitters can to their pull side, & he has a quiet, simple swing. BUT, throughout his career (minus his first 3 weeks in the Show) he has been a borderline liability in the lineup. He chases low & out of the zone, & he doesn’t make a lot of contact with pitches in the zone. That’s the bad.
What he’s doing right now is the GREAT.
What he is as an everyday player over the course of a career is somewhere in the middle, with a more-than-slight edge to his current dominance.
To be an effective long-term third baseman for the Braves he doesn’t have to be an All-World hitter like he is right now, he just can’t disappear completely for long periods of time like we’ve seen this season until the last two weeks of baseball. This Braves lineup has shown us what it can be with a performing Austin Riley, it’d be nice if Marcell Ozuna would do the same.