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Austin Riley nearly hits for cycle as Braves down Cardinals, 7-1

The last hit he needed was a triple, but we’re definitely not complaining about what he did tonight.

St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Brett Davis/Getty Images

Austin Riley came a triple away from hitting for the cycle, as his two-run homer in the first inning was part of an opening-inning blitz that eventually turned into a 7-1 win for the Braves over the Cardinals.

Both teams wasted little time getting on the scoreboard on this one — though the home team saw much more success than the road team did. Ian Anderson was going smoothly for the first two outs of the game but then he got into the heart of the Cardinals order. That meant that he had to go through Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. The prominent Redbird duo both reached base with a pair of singles and then Nolan Gorman brought home Goldschmidt with another single and the Cardinals went from nearly going down in order to getting ahead early.

This was a fleeting moment of success for St. Louis, as the Braves responded by getting their run back and then some. It all started with leadoff hitter extraordinaire Ronald Acuña Jr. smacking a single to right field, then stealing second and eventually making it to third via a wild pitch. Just like that, the Braves had the tying run at third base and the man who eventually brought him home with one out was Matt Olson. Olson’s game-tying single was nice, but Austin Riley’s go-ahead homer was even better. Riley skied one into the Chop House to make it 3-1 Atlanta, but the Braves weren’t done with Andre Pallante in the first inning.

Marcell Ozuna kept things going for Atlanta as he doubled immediately after Riley’s home run it came down to William Contreras having to make something happen with two outs in order to bring Ozuna home. Contreras saw one pitch from Pallante in this at-bat and promptly gave the fans sitting in the Chop House their second souvenir of the inning. His homer made it 5-1 in favor of the Braves and suddenly Ian Anderson went from being down a run after his first frame to being up four going into his second inning.

There was no more scoring until the fourth inning, which is when we got another example of Michael Harris II wreaking all sorts of havoc on the basepaths. It all started with Harris leading off the fourth by beating Nolan Arenado’s throw to first base, so Harris’ speed was immediately on display. He then stole second base and then took third base as well. So with two outs on the board, Matt Olson returned to the plate and Harris’ baserunning was rewarded with Olson’s 32nd double of the season. That wasn’t it for Atlanta, as Austin Riley followed up Olson’s double with a double of his own to make it 7-1 at that point.

At this point in the game, Andre Pallante had gotten the hook and the Cardinals had fallen into their second six-run deficit of the first two games of this series. With that being said, they tried to respond in the fifth inning after the Braves added onto their lead in the previous frame. Juan Yepez got a one-out single, Nolan Arenado came through with a two-out knock and then Nolan Gorman followed that up with a walk. Ian Anderson was suddenly facing a bases loaded situation with Dylan Carson at bat.

Fortunately, Anderson was able to end his night on a high note as he induced a harmless ground ball to Matt Olson at first base to end the inning. While it’s still wild that it took Ian Anderson 99 pitches to get through five innings, this was still a very good response to the calamity-filled start that he had in Philadelphia. He badly needed a night like this and the Braves are surely grateful that he managed to hold St. Louis at bay.

Atlanta’s lineup calmed down for the rest of the way, so it was on the bullpen to carry the game on home. Collin McHugh tallied two more good innings, Jackson Stephens pitched a scoreless inning and Tyler Matzek made his much-anticipated return to the mound. While his velocity was in the low-mid 90s instead of in the mid-high 90s, he did give us a sequel to his behind-the-back play that he made last May. Matzek also pitched a scoreless inning, so I’d say that’s a pretty successful way to come back to pitching for the big league club, right?

The aforementioned scoreless inning from Jackson Stephens was the top of the ninth inning, so that meant that the Braves ended up with a comfortable 7-1 victory over the Cardinals. The Braves have now ensured that they’ll have a split in this four-game series, but I’m sure that they’ll be looking for more considering that they’ve gotten out to big leads in each of the first two games. Meanwhile, the Reds won a pitcher’s duel in Cincinnati with a walk-off win against the Mets, so the Braves are once again only 2.5 games behind New York in the divisional standings. Atlanta’s firing on all cylinders right now and hopefully this surge continues for a long time.

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