If one had been stranded on an island for about five years and just returned to civilization during the 2024 MLB season, they would probably not be too alarmed by how the Atlanta Braves (37-30) are playing. After all, the team ranks in the top half in most offensive categories and holds the top position in the National League Wild Card standings. But everyone else knows better

The Braves' bats were historically relentless in 2023, totaling 307 home runs, a .276 batting average, .501 slugging percentage and .845 OPS. Their 2024 drop-off has left fans wondering if the Monstars sneaked into Truist Park and snatched their talent a la “Space Jam.” But a resurgence has been brewing in Atlanta, and it came to a boil in Friday's 7-2 win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Every batter except for the slumping Adam Duvall recorded a hit (12 total), as they reminded the home crowd how lethal a team this can be when it is scattering the ball all over the field. Though, the significant step forward did not come without a key setback. Michael Harris II suffered a left hamstring injury while running the bases and is headed to the 10-day injured list, per the Braves

This comes less than a month after 2023 NL MVP and solo occupant of the 40 home run and 70 stolen base club, Ronald Acuna Jr., devastatingly tore his ACL. Harris had been working to move past his 2024 struggles and is in the midst of a five-game hitting streak. His absence threatens to derail the gradual momentum he and Atlanta is starting to build.

Some of the club's biggest stars do not see it that way, though. The Braves are confident that something is finally clicking following these last couple of days.

Is blowout win vs. Rays a turning point for Braves?

Although the 2021 World Series champions plastered six runs on the scoreboard against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, Friday proved to be one of the team's most complete efforts in recent memory. Chris Sale received ample support from the lineup after surrendering the first run of the game and was able to cruise to his ninth win of the year.

The seven-time All-Star starting pitcher, who is turning back the clock with his new squad (2.98 ERA and 99 strikeouts), could sense that a breakthrough performance was on the horizon.

“You kind of felt it over the last few days, like, ‘OK, something’s about to happen,'” Sale said, per The Athletic's David O'Brien, after allowing two runs in seven frames while striking out seven. “We had a great ending to our road trip, and then obviously to start this one off today was big. Hopefully the boys will just keep doing what they’re doing and stay the course, and trust in themselves.”

Guys like Sale, Reynaldo Lopez (has a stunning 1.69 ERA) and a quality bullpen have done their best to mitigate the offensive shortcomings. NL home run leader and MVP contender Marcell Ozuna has done the same in the middle of the batting order. Far more is needed, though, if Atlanta is going to jump up toward its ceiling.

With Acuna out for the year, the responsibility to spark a revival falls heavily on Austin Riley and Matt Olson. Their extended slumber might finally be over.

Austin Riley has best showing of 2024

Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley (27) hits a two-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays in the second inning at Truist Park.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The star third baseman has dealt with a decent amount of strife already this year, which likely makes Friday's superb effort mightily therapeutic for him. Riley went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs versus Tampa Bay in what was only his second multi-hit game since May 7 (did miss two weeks with left side tightness).

He must ride that outburst to a streak that properly showcases why he is among one of the best at his position. The Braves' World Series chances probably depend on it. Olson is enjoying a productive June (.304/.373/.543,.916 slash line) and looks to join Ozuna and Riley in forming a fierce three-headed monster that is able to collectively feast on big league pitching once more. Ideally, Michael Harris II can also enter that mix at some point.

There is no room for ifs in an NL that includes the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers, but a normal version of Austin Riley, which is quite exceptional, could propel the Braves back near the top of the sport. They are looking to clinch a series victory Saturday against the Rays.