When Austin Riley made his MLB debut for the Atlanta Braves back in 2019, he immediately began with a power surge. He was hitting balls out of Truist Park left and right, including one the night of his debut.
It did not take long for pitchers to realize he struggled with the breaking ball and Riley cooled down significantly. Since that moment, Riley has been undervalued at the national level. Thankfully, Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves know what they have in Austin Riley.
In May of 2023, Riley inked a 10-year/$212 million contract to stay with the Atlanta Braves. After signing a contract like that, it would be easy to feel more pressure and begin underperforming. Riley did just the opposite.
During the 2023 regular season, Riley hit .281 with 37 home runs and 97 runs batted in across 159 games. The fact he only missed three games all regular season is impressive in itself. Many players who have earned two All-Star appearances and finished in the top 10 in Most Valuable Player voting twice in their first five seasons often do not have a clutch factor. Austin Riley has proved that playoff pressure does not bother him.
We have several examples of Riley coming through in October here but last night Riley joined elite company.
Austin Riley joins elite club with clutch home run
In one of the most dramatic scenarios possible, Riley played out many kids' dream scenario. The Braves trailed by one run in the bottom of the 8th inning with a runner on and two outs. Austin Riley stepped up to the plate, worked a full count, and then did this:
With this electric go-ahead home run, ESPN let us know that Austin Riley joined an elite rank with Braves legend, Chipper Jones. He became just the second player in Atlanta history to have multiple go-ahead home runs in the 8th inning or later of a postseason game.
Monday night was a prime example of how the 2023 Atlanta Braves can win games through a high-powered offense. They went from 0 hits through the first 5 innings and trailing 4-0 to tying the series with a 5-4 victory. Austin Riley was right in the middle of it and will continue to be.
Look for Monday night's impressive comeback win to give Riley and the Braves momentum to push through this challenging NLDS.