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The Braves avoid the sweep with small ball and is Austin Riley back?

Riley played a part in the Braves' walk off win against the Dodgers on Wednesday.

ATLANTA — On Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers went into the bottom of the ninth inning at Truist Park tied with three runs apiece. It was the third game of the series, the Dodgers had won the first two, and the Braves were looking to salvage the series and not get swept by a fellow division leader. They needed to end things on a good note, and they did.

The Dodgers won the first two games, 8-6 and 8-1, with Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider picking up the losses, respectively. It was not a good showing by the Braves and their starters, and they desperately needed a win.

And thanks to some small ball, the Braves walked off and salvaged the series' last game.

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On the latest episode of the Locked On Braves podcast, host Jake Mastroianni discussed the big win and how he liked that it wasn’t decided with a home run.

“I love that this game ended with a little bit of small ball,” said Mastroianni. “You had the first three runs of this game coming off a couple of home runs (Matt Olson hit one in the fourth, and Marcell Ozuna hit one in the fifth) but again, weren’t really able to piece together anything and manufacture runs. But when it mattered, when the game was on the line, they were able to do so and play a little small ball.”

Austin Riley led the charge with a double, then Travis d’Arnaud got him over to third, going the other way on a ground out to second. Then the Dodgers intentionally walked Eddie Rosario, which set up Ozzie Albies as the game's hero. And after a few foul balls, he sent the seventh pitch he saw from reliever Phil Bickford deep enough to right field to score Riley and win the game.

“It was really good, especially with the way the first two [games of the series] went and heading into our series against the Phillies,” Riley said via MLB.com, “You want to start to build momentum, and this is a good start to do that.”

Mastroianni went on to say that he thinks Austin Riley is back. Riley, who finished in the Top 10 of the National League MVP vote the past two seasons, has gotten off to a slow start so far in 2023, but as Mastroianni pointed out, if you look at his last ten games, he’s hitting .342, has five doubles—four alone in this series with the Dodgers—one home run and nine strikeouts. Overall, he’s batting .261/.336/.426 with seven home runs, 10 doubles, and 23 runs batted in.

“I talked about it in the series before this,” said Mastroianni, “That you could see little signs. He was starting to get some hits and starting to get a little lift. It’s this series for me. It’s the four doubles. You’re seeing him now consistently getting under that pitch down and in.”

Mastroianni did a deep dive on Austin Riley at the beginning of the month and talked about his issues with offspeed pitches down and in. Now, he’s beginning to hit those pitches.

So could this series be the one that continues to move Austin Riley in the right direction? You’ll find out this weekend when the Braves play the Phillies.

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