Riley keeps hitting as Braves top Red Sox

In his prime, the Braves envision Austin Riley as a middle-of-the-order bopper. He’s teased that potential since debuting in the majors last May, when he won rookie of the month, but his latest run might be his best.

Riley’s bases-loaded triple was the crucial hit of the Braves’ 6-3 win in Boston on Monday night. He just missed a grand slam over the low right-field wall.

“I’m feeling good at the plate right now,” Riley said. “It’s just sticking with it. I felt like I was putting up good at-bats when I wasn’t getting hits, and now the ball is finding holes. I’m putting good swings on balls. Just having that confidence going up there each time that I belong here. Having that confidence going up there that I can do damage with runners in scoring position.”

Knotted 2-2, the Braves broke it open in the fifth. Freddie Freeman led off with a walk against Red Sox starter Colten Brewer. Marcell Ozuna followed with a towering double to place runners at second and third.

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Brewer walked Nick Markakis, forcing the Red Sox into their bullpen. Riley slammed the second pitch he saw from Phillips Valdez – a sinker on the outer third of the plate – narrowly missing his second career grand slam. He settled for a three-RBI triple that put the Braves ahead for good.

“You’re happy for him because of all the hard work the kid has put into it,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s hung with himself. He’s gotten through some rough spots. It’s good to see. All I do is remember what he did last year. I keep talking about that and the impact he had on this club, what he can do. His all-around game, he’s just playing real solid baseball right now.”

It can’t be overstated how impressive Riley has looked at the plate over the past 11 games. After going 2-for-5 Monday, he’s hit .375 (15-for-40) with three homers, two doubles, a triple and 12 RBIs during the stretch. He’s showing discipline that’d alluded him for most of last season, when his performance suffered a steep decline following his break-out month.

“It’s a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders,” Riley said. “I was putting up good at-bats early in the season, I think. I just wasn’t getting hits. Now that the hits are falling, it’s a big confidence booster. So I just want to keep rolling with it.”

Credit: Charles Krupa

Credit: Charles Krupa

Notes from Monday:

- Max Fried’s latest start was another testament to his maturation. He wasn’t at his best, but the southpaw held the Red Sox to only two runs in five innings. The Braves are 8-0 in Fried’s starts, and considering the rest of their rotation, they can’t afford to give away many (if any) of his starts.

Fried moved to 6-0 in the pitcher wins department. His ERA increased from 1.35 to 1.60, dropping him behind Chicago’s Yu Darvish (1.47) for the National League lead.

“I want to go out there and just win a game,” he said. “I’ve always been a big team guy. Chasing stats, I tried to do that in the minor leagues and it never really worked out. I was always trying to be too perfect. But I knew that if I just went out there and tried to compete to the best of my ability, and just tried to manage the game and let the stats be what they be, I felt like I performed better. Just simply it all.”

- First baseman Freddie Freeman had another two hits, extending his hitting streak to 14 games. He’s tied the fourth-longest streak of his career.

- Outfielder Nick Markakis had a three-hit day, adding two RBIs. The Braves should be thankful every day that Markakis changed his mind after initially opting against playing this season. He’s hitting .368 across his first 18 games.

- Ian Anderson will make his second career start Tuesday against the Red Sox, for whom he grew up rooting. Anderson is from upstate New York, roughly three hours between New York City and Boston, and adopted the Red Sox because his father was such a passionate fan. Tuesday, he’ll get to take the mound at Fenway Park.