Marcell Ozuna knew how he would celebrate. His Braves teammates did as well.
All they needed was the chance.
The cause for commotion was a long time coming, but it finally came. Ozuna hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the wild-card playoff game against the Reds on Thursday. The blast gave the Braves a three-run lead in a game they would win 5-0, clinching the franchise’s first playoff series victory since 2001.
Ozuna paused for an imaginary selfie on his way to first base after the blast to left field. There would be more figmental photos to come.
“Going into the series, he’d been talking about the celebration he is going to do if he does get one,” Ronald Acuna said through an interpreter. “As soon as he hit it, we knew it was gone, and we looked forward to it happening. We celebrated as if it was our own accomplishment. I think that’s part of the team. We all celebrate as one. That was the cool part about it.”
Ozuna drove home Freddie Freeman, who walked to start the inning. The Braves were not done in the decisive inning. Adam Duvall followed with a two-run homer, after Ozzie Albies walked, to give the Braves the five-run lead. Once he got in the dugout, Braves players gathered around Duvall, who snapped an imaginary selfie of his own.
“Well, it was a moment where I had a rough little stretch there,” Duvall said. “Ozuna called me to the end of the dugout and put me in the spotlight right there. I was just having fun with it.
"That’s not really my forte. I’m not super flashy or anything. But we were having fun with it, and it was a big inning.”
Ozuna and Duvall struggled in the series. Ozuna was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in the Braves' 1-0 13-inning Game 1 win. He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Game 2 before his eighth-inning heroics caused the release of pent-up emotions. Ozuna was not made available to the media following the series-clinching win.
“It was fun,” Travis d’Arnaud said. “I wasn’t in the selfie, unfortunately. I was on-deck. But I heard a lot of people talking about it, and they all loved it. For as big as a home run is in a big moment to put us up 3-0 in the eighth inning, I wish I could get my hands on that selfie.”
Duvall was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Game 1 and 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Game 2 before his home run.
The Braves won the series with a total of six runs, four coming in their final at-bat. They struck out a total of 35 times in the series, including 21 in Game 1.
The celebration likely will be the cause of debate, especially the on-the-field pretend photograph. So much for the bat flip. What’s the proper way to enjoy such a grand moment?
“Nothing surprises me anymore,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I mean, that’s kind of the age we’re in. I don’t know. I watch the highlights, and I see guys strutting around. I see guys doing this and that. It doesn’t even faze me anymore. It’s where we’re at in the game.
"You know what, I better deal with it because it ain’t going away.”