17 Oct

a lot to like

There are a lot of reasons to like Austin Riley, the hero of Atlanta’s 3-2 win against Los Angeles in the National League Championship Series opener on Saturday night. The 24-year-old third baseman out of DeSoto Central High had to prove himself worthy of a starting job in spring training. A slow start to the season brought out the doubters again. Manager Brian Snitker stuck with him, and Riley responded by putting up MVP-type numbers while also playing Gold Glove-quality defense as the Braves charged to a division title. He was the definition of clutch on Saturday: a game-tying home run with two outs in the fourth inning and a game-winning hit in the ninth, his first walk-off knock as a pro. “He’s been our rock in the middle of the order,” Braves pitcher Max Fried said in a postgame interview. Ozzie Albies, who scored the winning run, called Riley “the big boss.” But Riley doesn’t act like a boss. For all his physical talents, his most admirable quality might be his comportment. After his home run Saturday — a laser into the left-field seats — he didn’t flip his bat, pound his chest or point to his wrist. He celebrated with a swarm of teammates after the ninth-inning hit, but in the televised postgame interview, he was composed and humble, as he always is. As over-the-top, look-at-me celebration begins to creep into baseball, it’s refreshing to see Riley handle his success with such grace. Want another reason to like him? In a recent interview with Mark Bowman of mlb.com, Riley said his favorite baseball movie, one he watched hundreds of times as a kid, is “The Sandlot.” Sounds about right.

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