OAKLAND, Calif. — No matter what happened Wednesday afternoon, the Atlanta Braves had a day off coming at long last.
Finally beating the Oakland Athletics might make it feel a little more deserved — and it will certainly make it more enjoyable.
Ozzie Albies hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in a three-run fifth inning, and the Braves won 4-2 to avoid a sweep by Major League Baseball's worst team while denying the Athletics' bid for their first three-game winning streak this season.
The victory came at the end of a grueling stretch for the Braves (33-23), who sit atop the National League East standings as they seek their sixth straight division title. Atlanta played 19 games in 20 days, going 9-10 during that stretch heading into Thursday's day off before visiting the Arizona Diamondbacks for a weekend series.
"These guys deserve this off day," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "This is a rough go here with all the teams we played. Coming out here, I'm not making excuses, but that did probably punch us in the gut a little bit."
The A's (12-46), who are already 24 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West, drew just 6,429 on Wednesday to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. It's the 22nd time in 31 home games this season that attendance has been less than 10,000 for the A's, whose stadium lease expires after the 2024 season; they plan to build a new ballpark in the Las Vegas area.
Atlanta rookie Jared Shuster (2-2) allowed two runs, three hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings to win consecutive decisions for the first time this season. Jesse Chavez, A.J. Minter, Nick Anderson and Raisel Iglesias combined to retire Oakland's last 11 batters, with Iglesias getting three outs for his fifth save in six chances this year.
"I'm just throwing a lot more strikes," said Shuster, who was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett on May 16. "Since I've been up, just trusting myself more and being more in sync with my deliveries has helped a lot."
Oakland had three hits, the seventh time this season the team has managed three or fewer. The A's rolled to a 7-2 win in the series opener Monday, then broke a tie in the bottom of the ninth to win 2-1 Tuesday, scoring the decisive run on an infield error with one out after three walks by Iglesias loaded the bases.
"They're one of the top teams in the league, and I thought we competed in all three games," second-year A's manager Mark Kotsay said. "We fell short today, but the series in general, we did a lot of good things, a lot of good things we can build off of."
Atlanta's Orlando Arcia had three singles and a walk, while Ronald Acuña Jr. had two hits and drove in a run as the Braves won for the third time in their past nine road games.
James Kaprielian (0-6) has the most consecutive losing decisions for an Oakland pitcher at a season's start since Mike Mohler began 0-8 in 1997. Kaprielian, who has never lasted more than seven innings in 54 career starts in the majors, gave up three runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Albies homered on a slider for a 2-0 lead in the fifth. His 11 home runs are his most since a career-high 30 in 2021, when he was selected for the MLB All-Star Game for the second time.
"It feels great to get a win,' Albies said. "Happy flight, happy off day."
Riley, whose fielding error at third a night earlier allowed the A's to score the game-ending run, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fifth after a two-out intentional walk to former A's first baseman Matt Olson.
Oakland closed to 3-2 in the sixth on Ramón Laureano's RBI single and Carlos Perez's run-scoring groundout. Acuña hit an RBI single off Ken Waldichuk in the seventh.