As Atlanta's legendary hip-hop duo OutKast might put it: Don't pull the bat out unless you plan to swing. Atlanta Braves slugger Austin Riley probably heeds that kind of advice because he appears to have a great plan at the plate right now.
With Big Boi in the house Thursday night celebrating OutKast with a bobblehead promotion, Riley dropped a couple of figurative bombs over the Philadelphia Phillies in an 8-5 victory at Truist Park.
Riley continued his recent prosperity after a weeks-long slump, going very deep for two long home runs against right-hander Aaron Nola. They weren't the longest home runs he has hit this season (they were the third- and fourth-longest), but they do demonstrate how much punch Riley packs when his fundamentals are strong.
The first blast, a two-run shot in the first inning, landed an estimated 459 feet away in left. The second homer, a solo shot in the fourth, went an estimated 458 feet to nearly the same spot. They also were the two hardest-hit balls of the game, going 110.9 mph and 113.8 mph, respectively. Riley later hit a ground ball to short clocked at 105.8 mph that had an expected batting average of .580.
The previous night, Riley also started the winning rally against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a leadoff double. So he's hitting the ball hard frequently. In the 11 games since his slump ended, the All-Star third baseman is batting .349 and has added 60 points to his slugging percentage.
His powerful showing against Atlanta's National League East rivals came at a concurrently fun moment for Braves fans, who greeted Big Boi with cheers as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch wearing a Henry Aaron throwback jersey from the 1970s. The likenesses of Big Boi (born Antwan André Patton) and André 3000 (born André Benjamin) also were featured in a bobblehead giveaway in which they were driving a red convertible and wearing similar period Braves garb.
One of the more popular groups of the late '90s and early 2000s, OutKast had their own string of smash hits, with "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)" in 2000 notably among them. Big Boi also noted in an interview with Bally Sports that OutKast represented the Braves by wearing team apparel in their first music video, "Player's Ball."
Hey, Ya! It seems being an ATLien is a lot of fun, especially when music and baseball are mixed.
It's possible that the bobblehead wizards already are coming up with a future giveaway celebrating the time Riley hit 917 feet of home runs with half of OutKast in attendance.
Riley broke into stardom in his third full season in 2021 when he batted .303/.367/.531 with 33 home runs. He followed with a .273/.349/.528 line with 38 homers last season. He also led the league in total bases, again finishing high in NL MVP voting.
Riley started out hot this season too, notably hitting a 473-foot home run on April 3, until a 22-game stretch in which he batted a sickly .184/.260/.287 with just two homers. He says he worked out some mechanical issues, figuring that doing so was more a matter of when. Riley's underlying metrics at MLB Statcast aren't as robust as his final numbers showed in 2021-22, but give him time for the overall results to catch up.
"The biggest bug has been my posture out over the plate," Riley said. "That’s been cleaned up. It's baseball. This game has its ebbs and flows. It’s a matter of working every day and just trying to be the best version of yourself."
The best version of Austin Riley will have the rest of the league running for cover. Look out below.