Austin Riley’s monster mashes help Braves beat Phillies

AP photo by John Bazemore / Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley watches his solo home run during the fifth inning of Thursday night's home win against the Philadelphia Phillies.

ATLANTA — Austin Riley hit a mammoth home run. Then he hit another, to almost the same spot.

"I don't think I've ever hit one that far in my life," teammate Travis d'Arnaud marveled. "He did it twice."

Riley's two long homers and d'Arnaud's pinch-hit, two-run single in the eighth inning carried the Atlanta Braves to an 8-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night.

D'Arnaud, sent up for slumping Michael Harris II with the bases loaded, lined a one-out single to left field off Gregory Soto (1-4) to break a 5-all tie. Matt Olson added a sacrifice fly.

In the first meeting between the National League East Division rivals since the Phillies' upset victory in an NL Division Series last fall, both teams displayed plenty of power to open a four-game set at Truist Park.

No one more than Riley, who had just two homers in May entering Thursday but matched that in one prodigious night of slugging. The 26-year-old third baseman extended his hitting streak to eight games, appearing to be over a sluggish start to the season.

A two-run shot in the first measured 459 feet. A solo drive in the fifth went an estimated 458 feet to essentially the same spot, way up in the seats beyond left-center field for the fifth multihomer game of his career.

Riley became just the third player to hit two 455-foot homers in a game since Statcast started tallying distances in 2015, joining Willson Contreras (2019) and Trevor Story (2018).

"That was like a couple of birdies back to back," Riley said with a grin. "It feels good."

Bryce Harper hit a massive homer for the Phillies, launching a 445-footer off Dylan Dodd that sailed past the Chop House restaurant in right field. It was Harper's 40th career homer against the Braves. Alec Bohm added a two-run shot for the Phillies.

Marcell Ozuna joined Riley in going deep for the Braves, who became the first team in nearly four years to hit three homers off Aaron Nola. Ozuna kept up his strong play since a dismal start to the season led many to speculate the Braves would eat the rest of his $65 million contract. In addition to his 10th homer of the season, he also had a huge hit in the eighth with a ground-rule double.

Ozuna was hitting .085 (5-of-59) at the end of April. He's 23-of-67 (.343) in May, raising his average to .222.

Harper went small ball to spark a rally that tied the game at 5 in the seventh. With two outs, he dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line for a single, then wound up scoring on Kyle Schwarber's double into the right-field corner off A.J. Minter.

Nick Castellanos also came home and was initially called safe on a close play at the plate, but a Braves challenge led to the call being overturned. The replay showed Castellanos' lead foot on the slide missed the plate before he was tagged by Sean Murphy on the opposite knee.

Dodd, a rookie called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his fourth start of the season in Atlanta's patched-up rotation, gave up four runs in five innings.

Nick Anderson (2-0) earned the win with a perfect eighth, and Raisel Iglesias picked up his fourth save in five chances this year.

Nola lasted six innings, giving up five earned runs to match his season high. It was the first time he has given up three homers in a game since July 18, 2019, against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

While Riley's homers were the star attraction, he also made a crucial defensive play in the third.

With one out and the bases loaded, Bohm grounded one to the third baseman. He scooped it up, stepped on the bag and threw out Castellanos at the plate — the first of two times, it turned out, that he would get nailed going home.

"The defense saved my butt tonight, especially in the third inning," Dodd said. "That was awesome."

Big Boi threw out the ceremonial first pitch on a night when the Braves honored Atlanta hip-hop duo Outkast. Taking the mound wearing a vintage No. 44 Hank Aaron jersey, he bounced his toss to the plate, the ball skipping by the bat boy sent out to handle the catching duties.

The crowd of 43,216 — the third-largest turnout in Truist Park history — received Outkast bobbleheads. There was no sign of the other member of the group, André 3000; the pair hasn't performed together since a 2014 reunion tour.

Before the game, the Braves put right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin on the 15-day injured list with a strained neck, clearing a spot on the roster for Dodd.

In the second matchup of the series Friday, the Braves will start another rookie as left-hander Jared Shuster (1-2, 5.49 ERA) gets the ball. The Phillies will counter with right-hander Taijuan Walker (3-2, 5.79).