Braves-bats break out in extra innings and win against Rockies


Braves-bats break out in extra innings and win against Rockies

DENVER — With a couple of pitching-dominated extra-inning wins at Coors Field, the Braves pulled off their first four-game winning streak of the season, equaled their record for the first time in nearly two months, and finally started to look like the reigning world champions.

“We know we can play this game against anyone,” said Austin Riley. “I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed over the past few days is that the guys are just playing their game. Don’t try to do too much. I think that will go a long way towards showing what this team is.”

Marcell Ozuna and William Contreras delivered back-to-back doubles and Adam Duvall hit a homer to cap an 11th inning with three runs that gave the Braves a 5-2 win over the Rockies at Coors Field on Saturday night. Atlanta has two extra-inning wins in the past two days, or two more than before Friday’s 10-inning win.

After squandering the one-run lead in the 10th inning on Saturday, the Braves managed to find some consolation by putting up a crooked number on the board. The breakout in the 11th inning aided a strong effort from the Braves’ bullpen that allowed one hit and no earned runs through seven innings.

The Braves have a .500 (27-27) record for the first time since April 16. Here are three takeaways from their most recent win.

1. Another MVP push?
Riley began his most recent multi-hit performance with a triple that came off his racquet at an exit speed of 113.1 mph and dented the midfield wall to the left of the 415-foot shield. The Braves’ third baseman then drilled a game-defining solo home run to start the sixth inning against Rockies starter Kyle Freeland. His team-leading 14 home runs put him on pace to hit 42 this year.

“He’s just doing something [we’ve] to be expected now,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s pretty special.”

Riley got off to a decent start, slowing in early May and has hit .389s in his last 13 games with six home runs and 1.264 OPS. There’s a chance he could top last year’s production, which included a .303 batting average, 33 homers and .898 OPS. This year’s 14th homer came in his 208th at-bat. That’s 64 fewer bats than it would have taken him to reach that total last year.

“I expect it of myself,” Riley said upon hearing Snitker’s comment. “I work really hard and try to master my craft with defense and my swing.”

2. Night Shift II:
When Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, AJ Minter and Luke Jackson shone in the postseason last year, the Braves’ bullpen became known as The Night Shift. Well, Jackson is recovering from Tommy John surgery, Matzek is on the IL with a shoulder condition, and Smith has been shaky for the past few weeks.

But Minter was one of the game’s best assists and he was part of Saturday night’s impressive combined performance. Jesse Chavez, who the Braves received in exchange for Sean Newcomb from the Cubs, pitched two scoreless innings, and Colin McHugh, Darren O’Day, Minter and Jackson Stephens worked together to keep the Rockies calm after the fourth inning. The only run allowed was when Elias Díaz singled out Minter to start 10th with the automatic runner in second place.

“Going into this year, we knew this bullpen was going to be something special,” said Minter. “Since the guys are injured, a lot of guys have stepped up to the plate.”

3. Survive and advance:
There was nothing picturesque about Spencer Strider’s first Coors Field experience. But by allowing just one run despite giving up five walks for five strikeouts in four innings, the rookie flamethrower made another solid impression. The Rockies loaded bases in both the third and fourth innings. But her only run against Strider came from a wild pitch with two outs in the fourth.

Strider just made his second career start. But to show how much confidence he has already gained, he stayed in the game. After the wild pitch, he used the next pitch to end his outing with a Charlie Blackmon groundout. An inning earlier, Dansby Swanson made a great play to kill the Rockies’ first base-loaded threat.

As Strider threw a career-high 86 pitches (45 strikes), he was still building stamina and strength that wasn’t needed when he hit one and two inning relief appearances a few weeks ago. He can continue to fight inconsistent commands while continuing to stretch out over the next few launches. But he blamed himself more for shying away from his fastball and trying to get too many chase swings with his slider.

“Don’t overcomplicate the game, that’s rule number one,” Strider explained. “I think there were times tonight where we got a little too complicated. But that’s a learning curve. You have to let the game tell you when it’s time to change.”

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