Playing in his seventh game with the Braves this season, right fielder Ronald Acuña proved that his power is all the way back Friday night. The two-time Silver Slugger winner launched his first home run of the season in the Braves’ series-opening 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, marking a major milestone in his recovery from a torn ACL.
The feat by itself was not even the most impressive part - it was the way the play happened that most highlighted Acuña’s rare skillset.
In the fourth inning, Acuña sent a curveball from Milwaukee starter Eric Lauer 450 feet to deep center, but lost his balance and tumbled over home plate as the ball rocketed toward and over the Truist Park center-field fence. He eventually found his footing, rounding the bases with enthusiasm after the solo shot and mixing in a Euro step move as he approached third base.
“I was surprised,” Acuña said through translator Franco García. “Nothing like this has ever happened.”
The Braves have been conservative with Acuña’s transition back into the lineup, splitting his time between right field and designated hitter duties and off-days. While he has already flashed promise in the field in his return to action, his bat had lagged behind. Acuña entered Friday evening with a .200 batting average and just one extra-base hit.
Acuña’s homer came with the Braves’ offense in desperate need of a spark against Milwaukee’s dominant pitching staff. In his first time through the order, Lauer retired all nine batters and registered four strikeouts. Lauer was also coming off consecutive starts with double-digit strikeouts and appeared to be on track for another dominant outing before Acuña’s homer.
THREE BRAVES HIGHLIGHTS FRIDAY NIGHT
Acuña said that during the swing, his cleat lost its grip with the ground and caused him to slip. He also said he wasn’t scared of an injury and that he feels healthy.
The top of the Braves’ order didn’t let Lauer off the hook after Acuña crossed home plate. First baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Austin Riley drew walks, and Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain’s throwing error to first base moved both baserunners into scoring position. Olson tagged up and scored on a sacrifice fly from second baseman Ozzie Albies, tying the game 2-2.
Brewers 6, Braves 3
With righty reliever Spencer Strider holding the Brewers at bay with a career-high eight strikeouts in four scoreless innings of work, the Braves’ scoring burst proved to be enough offense to keep pace with the NL Central leaders for a couple innings. But the rest of the Braves bullpen struggled, surrendering four runs in the sixth inning as the Brewers took control.
Acuña finished 1-for-4, following his home run with a pair of strikeouts. Manager Brian Snitker marveled at Acuña’s power and hopes the solo shot is a sign of things to come.
“Guys like that, that are used to hitting homers, you get that first one out of the way and you never know what might happen,” Snitker said. “You watch him take batting practice every day and it’s just crazy. It’s unnatural what the ball will do when it leaves his bat.”
About the Author
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com