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Riley homers again as Braves win series, inch closer to Mets

By JERRY BEACH

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Austin Riley concluded his big week at Citi Field by hitting a two-run homer and finishing with three RBIs, and the Atlanta Braves inched closer to the NL East-leading New York Mets with a 6-3 victory on Thursday.

The Braves won three games in the unusual four-day, five game series to move within four games of the Mets. Atlanta gave up a combined three runs in the two losses.

“These guys just kept getting after it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We pitched really well this series. It’s big, obviously. You say that you come in and it’s five games against a team that you’re chasing, it’s good to win the series.”

Riley made it 2-0 in the fourth when he took Taijuan Walker deep to left-center. He added an RBI single in the fifth. Riley had four homers and seven RBIs in the last three games of the series, and has eight longballs in 20 career games at Citi Field.

It took Mets nemesis Chipper Jones 28 games to hit eight homers at Shea Stadium, which was across the street from Citi Field. One of Jones’ sons is named Shea, but Riley isn’t ready to christen a kid “Citi.”

“Not quite yet,” Riley said. “I’ve got to hit a few more homers before I think of that.”

The 24-year-old also made a handful of impressive plays this week at third base. He snared a sharp grounder by J.D. Davis to rob the Mets’ third baseman of a third-inning hit on Thursday.

“Riley is an absolute stud,” Braves starting pitcher Drew Smyly said. “He’s still learning, but he’s got a ton of potential.”

Abraham Almonte and Dansby Swanson also homered for the Braves, who have yet to climb over .500 this season but haven’t been more than 7 1/2 games behind the Mets.

“With our struggles and how we’ve had the ups and downs and everything, we’re right there,” Snitker said.

Jesse Chavez (1-2), the second of five Braves pitchers, worked a scoreless fifth. Smyly allowed three runs in four-plus innings, including Pete Alonso’s two-run homer to the third deck in left field — a blast estimated at 453 feet.

“That was impressive,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “This kid does a lot of impressive things with his power, but that was really impressive.”

Alonso has 12 homers and 26 RBIs in 28 games since June 28 and is batting .321 with six homers and 13 RBIs since winning his second straight Home Run Derby title on July 12.

“Every kind of stretch is a little different and for me, I feel like my tempo and my timing is great right now,” Alonso said. “I feel like I have a really strong game plan every single time and I’ve been nice, free and easy at the dish.”

Tyler Matzek and Luke Jackson combined for three scoreless innings before Will Smith worked the ninth for his 21st save.

Walker (7-5) allowed five runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over five innings. He’s 0-2 with a 15.43 ERA in his last three starts.

Jonathan Villar had three hits for the Mets.

STREAKING

Jeff McNeil, who went 2-for-4 Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 15 games — the longest of his career and the longest active streak in the majors — didn’t play. The Mets have been cautious with McNeil, who missed a month with a left hamstring injury and sat out three of the first four games on the current homestand with a sore left leg.

In McNeil’s place the Mets started Brandon Drury, who entered Thursday with hits in each of his last six at-bats. He extended the streak to eight with singles in the second and fourth innings. With a chance to tie the franchise record for consecutive at-bats with a hit — set by Jose Vizcaino in 1996 and tied by John Olerud in 1998 — Drury grounded into a double play in the sixth.

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