Atlanta's Austin Riley is starting to produce the sort of results that made him an MVP candidate a year ago. He will try to build on those numbers when the Braves host the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday in the second game of a four-game series.
The third baseman hit two tape-measure home runs onThursday night, shots that sailed 459 and 458 feet, in Atlanta's 8-5 win during the series opener.
Riley had two doubles on Wednesday and is 12-for-30 (.400) with five doubles and two homers during an eight-game hitting streak that matches his longest of the season. It's quite a turnaround for Riley, who had batted just .200 in the previous 17 games and saw his average dip to .239. He is now hitting .264.
"Trying to stay in my zone and not get too far from it," Riley said. "Staying inside myself, not trying to do too much and good things happened."
Philadelphia designated hitter Bryce Harper is equally hot. He went 3-for-4 on Thursday and hit his third homer, a bomb that went 445 feet. It was his 40th career homer against the Braves, his top total against any opponent.
Harper also surpassed 5,000 career at-bats on Thursday. He has 615 extra-base hits and 891 walks in his career. Only 12 players in the modern era have had as many extra-base hits and walks when reaching 5,000 at-bats as Harper.
The starting-pitching matchup on Friday will feature Philadelphia's Taijuan Walker (3-2, 5.79 ERA) and Atlanta rookie Jared Shuster (1-2, 5.49).
Walker had a nice bounce-back in his latest start on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. He did not get a decision despite pitching 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out three on three days' rest. That was a great improvement over his previous start against the San Francisco Giants on May 17, when he was knocked out in the first inning after giving up four runs.
"I knew what the fix was, and I was able to fix it," Walker said.
Manager Rob Thompson said, "I'm sure he wanted to perform, and he did."
Walker has made seven career starts against Atlanta, going 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA. Last season with the New York Mets, he endured one of the worst starts of his career on Aug. 5 vs. the Braves, when he allowed eight runs on seven hits -- two of them home runs -- in one-plus inning.
Shuster, Atlanta's first-round draft choice in 2020, rejoined the rotation after ace Max Fried was placed on the injured list earlier this month. The rookie has been respectable since being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. In his most recent outing on Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, he allowed one run on one hit with one walk and seven strikeouts in six innings.
"I felt much more comfortable out there," Shuster said. "It was much better, just trusting myself, trusting the catcher and trusting everyone behind me."
Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said, "He's kind of one of those guys who doesn't show a lot of emotion. That was awesome. Really impressive, what he did."
The Braves have won two straight and six of their last 10. The Phillies, who started a 10-game road trip on Thursday, have dropped three of their past four and eight of their past 11.
--Field Level Media