Braves use Almonte as cleanup hitter for first time

Atlanta Braves' Abraham Almonte runs to first base Thursday, June 10, 2021, against the Phillies in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Braves' Abraham Almonte runs to first base Thursday, June 10, 2021, against the Phillies in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Credit: AP

You wouldn’t have expected this when the season began: Abraham Almonte as the Braves’ cleanup hitter.

But manager Brian Snitker moved left fielder Almonte to fourth in the batting order for Sunday’s game at Miami, Almonte’s first game in that spot with the Braves. Third baseman Austin Riley slid down one spot in the order, from fourth to fifth.

“I just wanted to give it a different look, really, and Almonte has been having some really good at-bats, too,” Snitker said.

Sunday’s batting-order configuration worked out well in the first inning as Almonte drew a walk on a full-count pitch to load the bases and Riley followed with a two-run single to center field — his first hit in 18 at-bats — to give the Braves a 2-0 lead.

For the game, Almonte went 0-for-3 with two walks and a run scored, while Riley went 3-for-3 with a home run, a walk, three RBIs and two runs.

Almonte, 31, who has played in parts of nine major-league season with six teams, signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Braves as a free agent in October and opened the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. He was promoted to the big-league team May 31 and since then mostly has batted sixth.

A switch-hitter, Almonte entered Sunday’s game with a .286 batting average (8-for-28) with a .944 OPS. Still, he’s far from a prototypical cleanup hitter, having hit just 19 homers in 1,066 career at-bats.

Abraham Almonte stats

Riley’s superb season to date had been interrupted in the past four games before Sunday. He was hitless in 17 at-bats, including seven strikeouts, over that stretch.

Braves notes

- Ehire Adrianza played shortstop Sunday, with Dansby Swanson getting a scheduled day off from the starting lineup. It was Adrianza’s first start of the season at shortstop. He made two exceptional defensive plays.

- Swanson entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and finished the game at shortstop. “I told Dansby he almost had a day off,” Snitker said. “It’s hard for a guy to have a day off in the National League with a four-man bench.”

- The Braves are off Monday before opening a six-game homestand. They’ll play Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, followed by a four-game series against St. Louis. Pitching matchups against the Red Sox: LHP Tucker Davidson (0-0, 1.53 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (5-4, 6.03) on Tuesday and RHP Ian Anderson (4-3, 3.26) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (4-4, 4.09) on Wednesday.