5 takeaways after Braves split doubleheader vs. Cardinals

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna celebrates after hitting a home run off St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim in the third inning of the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)
Caption
Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna celebrates after hitting a home run off St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim in the third inning of the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)

Credit: AP

The Braves split Sunday’s doubleheader with the Cardinals at Truist Park. They dropped Game 1, 9-1, and rebounded to take Game 2, 1-0. Both games were seven innings.

Here are five takeaways from Sunday:

1. Outfielder Ronald Acuna hit his 100th career home run in the third inning off Cardinals lefty Kwang Hyun Kim. It was his 19th homer this season and ultimately won the game.

“I was aware (I was one away from 100) right after I hit the 18th home run in Philly,” Acuna said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “But my mind was never on that. It wasn’t a primary focus of mine. I went something like 10 games without a home run, but that didn’t matter to me. I was playing well. The team was playing well. And that’s my main priority.”

Braves 1, Cardinals 0 (box score)

2 Acuna is one of five players with 100 homers and 70 stolen bases before turning 24. The list also includes Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Trout, Alex Rodriguez and Andruw Jones. Acuna also is the first National League player to have a milestone home run be the only run of a 1-0 victory, according to STATS. The others: Ted Williams (400th homer), Seth Smith (100th), Adam Jones (200th) and Justin Upton (200th).

“He’s a threat and he’s that guy, don’t go get popcorn when he comes up because he might do something special,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Congratulations to him on his 100th homer. That’s a big milestone for a kid that young, too. He’s going to have a few more of those 100-homer milestones, too. So that’s pretty cool. And a 100th homer to win a game, that’s even more special for him.”

3. Braves lefty Drew Smyly had his best start of the season in Game 2, holding the Cardinals hitless for 5-2/3 innings. The only hit he allowed was on a softly hit ball by Paul Goldschmidt that required a tough play by second baseman Ozzie Albies.

Albies snagged the ball, spun and delivered an imperfect throw to first baseman Freddie Freeman that wasn’t in time. It was ruled a hit.

“For most of the game, I was just pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of guys,” Smyly said. “Putting them in defense mode. My fastball had some good life on it. I’ve been working quite a bit with Kranny (pitching coach Rick Kranitz) on using my legs more and driving it to the plate versus falling off at third base, which I think I was doing. When I have my whole body going in line towards home plate, it makes everything better.”

It was Smyly’s second consecutive promising start. Over that span, he’s allowed two runs on seven hits, striking out 11 and walking four in 10-2/3 innings.

“The last couple games, the common theme is he’s driving the ball,” Snitker said. “(St. Louis) is a really good hitting team off left-handed pitching. They didn’t take real good swings at him, and that’s a good sign to me.”

Braves pitcher Drew Smyly (center) hands the ball to manager Brian Snitker (43) in the sixth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)
Caption
Braves pitcher Drew Smyly (center) hands the ball to manager Brian Snitker (43) in the sixth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

4. Veteran Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright, a 39-year-old former Braves farmhand and Brunswick native who’s long been part of the Cardinals’ success, allowed one run on three hits in a seven-inning complete game in the first contest. Wainwright outpitched Braves starter Bryse Wilson, who allowed five runs on eight hits in four innings.

5. Despite scoring only two runs across 14 innings, the Braves split the doubleheader Sunday. They took three of four from the Cardinals, a nice rebound after a pair of painful losses to Boston earlier in the homestand.

“Tremendous series,” Acuna said. “Spirits are high and the energy is up. I think we’re looking forward to carrying that into New York and winning that series.”

Stat to know

3-3 (The Braves are 3-3 in seven-inning games this season, with another doubleheader on deck Monday.)

Quotable

“Braves fans shouldn’t take him for granted because he’s a pretty special player.” – Smyly on Acuna

Up next

The Braves open a four-game series in Queens with a doubleheader Monday against the Mets. Ian Anderson and Kyle Muller will start for the Braves, though the team hasn’t announced who will start which game.