Riley and Ozuna Spark Braves’ Offense in 7-3 Victory Over Rays, Boosting Sale to 7-0 at Home

Austin Riley and Marcell Ozuna powered the Atlanta Braves’ offense to a 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night. Riley drove in three runs with three hits, including a two-run homer, while Ozuna added a three-run shot, signaling a potential recovery for the Braves’ struggling lineup.

Chris Sale (9-2) improved to 7-0 at home, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings.

Braves leadoff hitter Michael Harris II left the game in the first inning with left hamstring tightness and is headed to the 10-day injured list, according to manager Brian Snitker. “He said he felt something,” Snitker noted, indicating Harris will undergo imaging tests on Saturday.

Atlanta has been battling injuries, including the loss of right fielder and reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. to a season-ending knee injury on May 26.

Riley, who entered the game with a .220 batting average and only three homers, contributed significantly with a run-scoring double in the Braves’ five-run first inning and a two-run homer in the second. “I’ve been working hard to get it right,” Riley said. “Seeing some results is nice.”

The Braves’ seven runs, all scored in the first two innings, were their highest total for a full game since an 8-3 win at Boston on June 4, providing a much-needed boost to their lineup. “Getting Austin involved is huge for us,” manager Brian Snitker said.

Since May 1, the Braves’ 3.55 runs per game ranked as the second-lowest in the majors, just ahead of the Chicago White Sox (3.25). Their bats showed promise in a 6-3 win at Baltimore on Thursday, ending a five-game losing streak. The Braves tallied 12 hits against the Orioles, their highest since June 1, and added another 12 hits against Rays right-hander Zack Littell (2-5) and four relievers.

Ozuna, who leads the NL with 19 homers and 60 RBI, has been the lone consistent performer in the lineup. “I don’t feel like he’s getting enough love from the baseball world for what he is doing for us, almost on a nightly basis,” Riley said about Ozuna.

The Rays initially took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Amed Rosario’s RBI double but left runners on second and third as Sale struck out Jose Siri and Jonny DeLuca. Littell allowed seven runs (six earned) on eight hits, including homers by Ozuna and Riley, in two innings. “Just didn’t execute,” Littell said. “Just a bad night. Threw pitches in bad spots. Kind of went away from what I was doing well.”

Braves left fielder Jarred Kelenic made a leaping catch at the wall on DeLuca’s drive off Dylan Lee in the ninth, following a double by Siri. Richie Palacios added a run-scoring double in the seventh and drove in Siri with a single. Raisel Iglesias recorded the final out for his 18th save.

TRAINERS ROOM Rays: DH/OF Harold Ramírez, designated for assignment last week, is now a free agent after receiving his outright release. 2B José Caballero (illness) left the game in the third inning.

Braves: RHP Ian Anderson is nearing a rehab assignment as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in April 2023. He has been throwing at the team’s Florida complex. “He’s been pretty good,” Snitker said. “It’s just a matter of building him up now.”

UP NEXT Former Rays RHP Charlie Morton (3-3, 4.12) will face his old team as the Braves take on Tampa Bay RHP Ryan Pepiot (4-3, 4.17) on Saturday. Morton pitched for the Rays in 2019 and 2020.

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