Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley homer in Braves win

ATLANTA — William Contreras has been belting home runs at a ridiculous rate and Dansby Swanson has been the Braves’ only consistent offensive threat over the past month. So, while it was encouraging to see them contribute to the 8-4 win over the Phillies on Wednesday night, the reigning World Series champs were even happier to show the potential depth of their lineup. 

“I don’t think anybody has doubted the abilities of our guys,” Swanson said. “I think we’re starting to see the results show up from the work we’ve done. We obviously weren’t satisfied by the way the season started either. Getting everyone going and rolling is obviously a nice thing.” 

Even with Ronald Acuña Jr. nursing a Grade 1 right groin strain that will likely sideline him until at least Friday, the Braves constructed one of their most complete offensive performances of the year. They received at least one hit from each of the first eight spots of their lineup and scored at least eight runs for just the fourth time this season. They also collected 13 hits for just the third time. 

“I think we’ve been waiting for it for a while now,” Austin Riley said. “Guys are putting up very competitive at-bats one through nine. It was just an overall good ballgame.”  

Here’s a quick look at how Wednesday’s production related to recent trends.

Mr. Consistency
Swanson struggled through the season’s first two weeks, but he has a team-best .946 OPS over the past 30 games. How significantly has the rest of the lineup struggled within this span? Well, Riley ranks second with a .740 OPS.

Swanson padded those numbers while constructing his third career four-hit game and first since Aug. 4. The veteran shortstop highlighted his attack with a single during a four-run second and a homer in the sixth.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned throughout my career is to stay driven and focused on the process,” Swanson said. “I sit down and tell myself the goal is to be the best version of Dansby Swanson both on and off the field, without it just being about the results.”

Babe Ruth?
Contreras ended Tuesday night’s win with the first walk-off hit of his young career and he homered in Wednesday’s first at-bat. The 24-year-old catcher has seven homers through his first 44 at-bats of the season.

Contreras is the only MLB player to tally seven home runs through his first 13 games of this season. He joins Justin Upton (8 HR, 2013), Acuña (7 HR, 2021) and Dale Murphy (7 HR, 1985) as the only Braves of the Atlanta era (since 1966) to hit at least seven homers through their first 13 games.

Riley produced a .974 OPS through his first 24 games and then tallied an abysmal .415 OPS over a 16-game stretch that ran through Sunday. But he has since tallied three straight multi-hit games and he hit the go-ahead homer in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s win. The third baseman who hit .303 with 33 homers last year, has tallied nine homers. But this was just his second since May 2.

As for Marcell Ozuna, he produced a .985 OPS over his first 11 games and then hit .143 with a .373 OPS over his next 22 games. But even with a 1-for-5 performance on Wednesday, he still has hit .311 with four homers and a .918 OPS over the past 11 games.

Riley and Ozuna appear primed to give the Braves the middle-of-the-order production they have lacked throughout the season. They are trending in the right direction, and Matt Olson showed he may not be far behind with the go-ahead homer he hit in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s win.

“If those guys aren’t hitting in the middle of our order, we’re in trouble,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We need the guys to be hitting in the middle of that order.”

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