The Braves returned home with a bang, overwhelming the Rays with early offense in a 7-3 victory Friday. It was their second straight win after losing five in a row.

Here are five takeaways:

1. The Braves offense channeled its inner 2023, striking for five runs in the first and another couple in the second to jump all over the Rays. It was the explosion the bats have longed for over a trying six-week stretch. And it was the second consecutive promising offensive showing, which could indicate a breakout is coming (or already here). They’ve produced a combined seven runs over their last two first innings.

“That’s what we were doing a lot in 2023,” third baseman Austin Riley said. “Building off what we did (Sunday) to today is always a positive to see. We’re trying to build off that momentum.”

Outfielder Michael Harris II singled off Zack Littell to begin the frame. Second baseman Ozzie Albies followed with a double, setting up designated hitter Marcell Ozuna’s three-run blast. The Braves then scored on consecutive doubles from first baseman Matt Olson and Riley. They scored again on a throwing error.

Sure sounds a lot like the historic group from a year ago, doesn’t it? “It felt good to jump out and have a lead like that,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Hope it’s a trend.”

2. No one needed Friday more than Riley. He had a double and homer in the first two innings, collecting three hits while showing the dynamic bat that helped make him the highest-paid Brave in history. It was his first home run since May 3 in Los Angeles.

Finally, Riley had a performance to build upon.

“I’ve been working hard trying to get it right,” he said. “And to see some results is nice, and to help the team.”

Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley, right, celebrates his two-run home run with Atlanta Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Truist Park, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz /

icon to expand image

Credit: Jason Getz /

Since returning from a 13-game absence due to side soreness, Riley was hitting .161 with a .406 OPS. This has been his most difficult stretch perhaps since his rookie season, when Riley’s second-half spiral led to the Braves leaving him off the postseason roster in 2019.

Starter Chris Sale also praised Riley’s defense. The third baseman helped start two double plays.

“He had a small hiccup there (injury) and had some time off, so it’s tough jumping back in here and hitting major-league pitching after missing some time,” Sale said. “It looks like he’s starting to catch his groove and get back to where he wants and needs to be.”

3. Outfielder Michael Harris II exited in the first inning with left hamstring tightness. He pulled up while running to third base. The Braves’ outfield is already depleted and now Harris will hit the injured list, Snitker said.

“They’ll MRI (the hamstring on Saturday) to see what level the strain is,” Snitker said. “We’ll IL him and go from there.”

4. The Rays had two hits and one run off Sale in the first; they didn’t manage much more. The Braves lefty once again covered seven innings, surrendering two runs on five hits while striking out seven.

Sale has pitched seven innings in five of six starts, continuing his impressive rebound season. After logging just 151 innings over the past four seasons, Sale has already reached 81-2/3 this campaign.

5. The Braves won’t bring their entire infield to the All-Star game again. They won’t consume a sizable percentage of the roster, either. But they have one clear, no-doubt slugger who should be in Texas next month. Ozuna homered again Friday, part of a three-hit night.

“I don’t feel like he’s getting enough love from the baseball world, what he’s doing for us,” Riley said. “Just on a nightly basis. He works really hard. He comes in every day and has the same energy. Ultimately, as long as we win, he’s pleased with it no matter what happens at the plate. You watch guys like that, pick up on anything you can learn. He’s been doing it a while and he’s doing it at a high level right now.”

Stat to know

7, 5 - Friday marked the seventh time the Braves have scored five or more runs in one inning this season.


“It had that feel again as they started out the game.” – Snitker

Up next

Braves veteran Charlie Morton (3-3, 4.12) faces his old team Saturday. Tampa Bay will start Ryan Pepiot (4-3, 4.17), one of the prized youngsters obtained in the offseason Tyler Glasnow trade with the Dodgers.