ATLANTA (AP) — Ian Anderson says the Atlanta Braves’ sudden turnaround is “hard to describe.”
One obvious factor in the team’s season-best, seven-game winning streak is rookie Michael Harris.
Harris gave Atlanta the lead with a two-run triple in the fifth inning that spoiled Jared Koenig’s major league debut, and the surging Braves beat the skidding Oakland Athletics 13-2 on Wednesday night.
A sellout crowd of 42,075 gave Harris an ovation, and his clutch swing triggered an outburst of extra-base hits that included four homers.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Harris said. “It got our bats rolling.”
Anderson pitched six solid innings and the Braves rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the second straight night to sweep the two-game series.
The A’s have lost eight straight and 11 of 13.
The defending World Series champion Braves struggled through most of the first two months, never winning more than two consecutive games before breaking out with their first true winning streak. It’s no coincidence the Braves found the path to consistent winning almost immediately after Harris, the team’s top prospect, was recalled from Double-A Mississippi on May 28.
Harris has impressed with his big defensive plays in center field, and he showed his offensive potential with a triple and double on Wednesday night.
“He has been really impressive, as we’ve talked, defensively, and his at-bats have been really, really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Harris, hitting .268, said: “I feel like I belong.”
The 28-year-old Koenig led 2-1 through four innings after completing his long path to the majors that included spending the 2017-19 seasons in independent leagues. The 6-foot-5 left-hander didn’t get an out in the fifth.
After walking Marcell Ozuna, who moved to third on Adam Duvall’s double off the left-field wall, Koenig faced Harris in a matchup of rookies. The left-handed-hitting Harris pulled a liner past first baseman Seth Brown into the right-field corner, driving in Ozuna and Duvall to give the Braves a 3-2 lead.
Harris was safe on a headfirst slide into third base. With two outs, Austin Riley’s two-run homer off Domingo Acevedo extended the lead to 5-2. William Contreras, Ozzie Albies and Duvall also homered in Atlanta’s 13-hit outburst.
Albies’ three-run shot, which barely cleared the left-field wall over the glove of a leaping Chad Pinder, and Duvall’s two-run drive were the big hits in a seven-run seventh.
Harris added a seventh-inning double, complete with another headfirst slide into second base. He scored on Riley’s single for a 7-2 lead.
Anderson (5-3) allowed two runs and six hits.
Koenig (0-1) permitted four runs on five hits and two walks in four-plus innings.
Ramón Laureano doubled and scored on a wild pitch and Sean Murphy had a run-scoring single in Oakland’s two-run fourth.
The winning streak has pushed the Braves (30-27) three games over .500.
“We’re kind of doing the right things now and it’s kind of leading to wins,” Anderson said, adding “you’ve got to hold onto it as long as you can.”
Koenig became the 20th rookie to play for Oakland this season, one shy of the team record set in 2008. He is the 13th rookie pitcher for the A’s, which sets a team record.
The A’s optioned right-hander Domingo Tapia to Triple-A Las Vegas when Koenig was recalled from Las Vegas. Right-hander Gabe Klobosits was designated for assignment.
A’s catcher Christian Bethancourt, who popped out in the eighth as a pinch-hitter, remained in the game to pitch mop-up duty in the bottom of the inning. The right-hander got three consecutive outs. He previously pitched a combined six games with San Diego in the 2016-17 seasons.
Braves C Travis d’Arnaud (left forearm) was held out another day after being hit by a pitch Sunday. He could return to the lineup Thursday night. … OF Eddie Rosario, placed on the 10-day injured list April 25 with blurred vision and a swollen right retina, is increasing his hitting and fielding practice. … Snitker said RHP Collin McHugh, placed on the COVID-19 injured list Tuesday, was “still not feeling great.”
Athletics: RHP James Kaprielian (0-3, 6.06), who has a 7.98 ERA in his last three starts, will try for his first win when Oakland continues its nine-game road trip with the first of four games at Cleveland against LHP Konnor Pilkington (1-0, 2.65) on Thursday night
Braves: LHP Max Fried (5-2, 2.74) will face Pittsburgh RHP JT Brubaker (0-5, 4.70) when Atlanta opens a four-game home series against the Pirates on Thursday night. Fried is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three career starts against Pittsburgh, but he allowed only one run in seven innings of a 7-1 home win on May 23, 2021.
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