In superstar Ronald Acuña’s return, the Braves defeated the Cubs, 5-1, on Thursday at Truist Park. In its sixth try, Atlanta (9-11) won its first series of the season by taking two of three from Chicago.

Here are five observations:

1. In his much-anticipated return, Acuña showed a bit of everything.

Acuña went 1-for-5 with two stolen bases and two strikeouts in his first game with the Braves since tearing his ACL last July. All night, the crowd went crazy for him.

“I was just extremely excited,” Acuña said through interpreter Franco García. “I think the adrenaline level was at a maximum. Those first few at-bats, I couldn’t contain myself, it felt like. Obviously the later at-bats, I felt like I could contain myself and keep the emotion in check a little bit better.”

In the bottom of the seventh, Acuña, who hit leadoff and played right field, collected his first hit of the season when he went the other way against Chicago reliever Scott Effross for a single. He then stole his second base of the game. (The other came in the fifth, after he grounded into a force out).

In the top of the fifth, Acuña held Jason Heyward to a single by cleanly fielding the ball off the right field wall and firing it in to prevent a double. The ball hit hard off the wall, which helped, but Heyward had turned for second before stopping in his tracks. It seemed clear he respected Acuña’s arm.

The Braves finally have their star outfielder back. They will ease him back into the fold, and he won’t play on Friday.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

2. Kyle Wright tossed seven innings to set a career high. He only allowed one earned run ... and his ERA increased.

That’s how well he’s pitched this season.

Wright, who holds a 1.13 ERA over four starts, showed more of the confidence that has factored into his dominant first month. He didn’t appear to have his best stuff at times, but still held the Cubs in check. He never seemed in danger of succumbing to the big inning, even if danger loomed.

“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence going forward,” Wright said. “I feel like I can learn a lot more from this outing than the ones where you just throw really well.”

He issued four walks, three of which came against the first seven batters he faced. He settled in and eventually struck out eight Cubs. He even helped himself out: In the seventh inning, he started a 1-6-3 double play after walking the leadoff man.

Wright’s lone earned run came in the second, when a runner scored during a rundown that became the final out of the frame.

Wright’s previous career high for innings pitched was 6 2/3 versus Boston on Sept. 25, 2020.

3. Perhaps Dansby Swanson is beginning to find his groove.

Swanson launched a 432-foot solo home run off former teammate Drew Smyly that gave the Braves the lead in the bottom of the third inning. Swanson’s two-hit game on Thursday followed his two-run single that tied Wednesday night’s game.

Austin Riley also homered off Smyly for his fifth home run of the season.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

4. In the eighth inning, Adam Duvall walked up to the plate with a .486 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has struggled this season, but this moment could give him a lift: He blasted a two-run home run, his first of the season, off Chicago’s Ethan Roberts.

Duvall has played a great center field, but hasn’t found a rhythm at the plate. This might help jumpstart him.

“He’s a pro, he plays the game the right way, he prepares and he’s a ballplayer,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

The Braves scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to give themselves a cushion.

5. Manny Piña’s placement on the injured list meant William Contreras was recalled for the final game against his brother’s team.

Before the game, the two shared an emotional moment as William and Wilson, both catchers, brought out the lineups before the game and embraced at home plate.

Braves 5, Cubs 1

Stat to know

292 - There were 292 days between July 10, 2021 (the last game Acuña played before Thursday) and Thursday.


“I never saw him at the field today when I was doing my preparation and stuff like that, but you could just feel a little bit different energy. He’s a superstar player and just getting a guy like that back in the locker room, in the lineup, it goes a long way.” - Wright on Acuña’s return

Up next

The Braves begin a two-city road trip with Friday’s series opener in Texas, which begins at 8:05 p.m. ET. Braves right-hander Ian Anderson will face Rangers right-hander Spencer Howard.