Riley homers again as Braves beat Giants 5-4 in 13 innings

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SAN FRANCISCO — Austin Riley hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning then drove in the go-ahead run in the 13th with a two-out single off Reyes Moronta, lifting the Atlanta Braves past the San Francisco Giants 5-4 on Thursday.

Riley and Ozzie Albies both had three hits for Atlanta and Tyler Flowers homered. The Braves have won 10 of 13.

Luke Jackson (3-1), who blew his fourth save on Tuesday, retired six batters to win.

Atlanta hit eight home runs in the four games with San Francisco, the most the Braves have hit in one series at the Giants’ waterfront ballpark. They hit seven in a four-game series at Oracle Park in 2012.

Tyler Austin hit his first career pinch-hit home run, and Brandon Belt scored on a wild pitch for San Francisco.

Riley already had one hit before his two-run homer off Tony Watson with two outs in the eighth. It was the 22-year-old’s third home run of the series and fifth overall.

The Braves had only one baserunner over the next four innings before Dansby Swanson singled against Moronta (1-4) leading off the 13th. After Freddie Freeman flew out, Swanson stole second base. One out later, Riley lashed a single to right field and Swanson scored easily.

San Francisco got the tying run on base with one out in the bottom of the 13th but Jackson struck out Mac Williamson and Atlanta third baseman Josh Donaldson made a barehanded grab on Donovan Solano‘s short chopper, throwing to first for the final out.

Atlanta’s win overshadowed a strong outing by Giants starter Madison Bumgarner. The big lefty allowed two runs on six hits, walked two and left with a 4-2 lead. Bumgarner has a 2.12 ERA in nine games against the Braves since his last loss to them on Aug. 25, 2012.

Braves starter Kevin Gausman allowed three runs in six innings. Gausman has one win in his last nine starts.

CONSECUTIVE K’S

Will Smith‘s swinging strikeout of Charlie Culberson leading off the ninth was the left-handed reliever’s 11th consecutive out to come via strikeout, a San Francisco record.

TRAINERS ROOM

Giants: Brandon Crawford was held out of the lineup because of conjunctivitis (pink eye). The three-time Gold Glove shortstop is likely to sit out Friday as well, although manager Bruce Bochy said Crawford is available to pinch-hit.

UP NEXT

Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (0-3, 6.91 ERA) will start Friday in St. Louis. Foltynewicz is winless in six outings and has allowed two or more home runs in five of them.

Giants: LHP Drew Pomeranz (1-4, 5.66) faces Arizona on Friday in his second start since coming off the injured list. Pomeranz is winless in nine career games (six starts) against the Diamondbacks.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.