Returning Acuna to leadoff pays off for Braves with home run, win

In an attempt to rejuvenate their offense, the Braves moved Ronald Acuna into the leadoff spot. The 21-year-old came up with the hit of the night – an eighth-inning homer – that notched his team a much-needed victory.

No, we’re not revisiting the second half of 2018. This was Friday night, when a reshuffled Braves lineup scrapped together just enough to snatch a 2-1 win in Arizona, ending the team’s four-game losing streak.

“It feels good,” Acuna said through team interpreter Franco Garcia. “Whatever happened yesterday is in the past. Today was a new opportunity and I’m glad we took advantage of it.”

The game locked in a 1-1 draw, Acuna cranked a 466-foot homer to center off Yoan Lopez. That 113-mph shot was the longest of his career.

It was also Acuna’s third career go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later. It came on the day he was shifted back into leadoff, with manager Brian Snitker moving pieces around to liven an offense that hadn’t exceeded three runs in its past five games.

The Braves didn’t surpass the three-run threshold Friday either, but they won, which softens any concerns. Julio Teheran gave them six innings, holding a dangerous Arizona offense to a single run. Dan Winkler and Sean Newcomb were the bridge to Luke Jackson, who rebounded from his blown save Thursday with a 1-2-3 strike-laden ninth.

Since embarking on a 10-day road trip, the Braves have tasted the highs and lows. They swept Miami before getting swept themselves in Los Angeles. They lost Thursday’s opener in Phoenix in excruciating fashion.

This one was needed. And they can thank their human spark plug for the jolt.

“He looks like he – I don’t want to jinx things, but he’s swinging the bat better,” Snitker said. Acuna, who’d cooled down lately and even endured a 19-game homerless streak until Tuesday, made adjustments with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer in L.A. to get back in his groove.

Acuna said it’s helpful to have an extra set of eyes studying his at-bats. He insists his changes have been few, that it’s more about adapting to pitches and staying true to the usual routine.

The Braves’ offense hasn’t found the consistency of which it’s capable. Much of that potential success revolves around the reigning NL rookie of the year, whom many believed would warrant MVP chatter with a big sophomore campaign.

“We all know what he can do,” Teheran said. “Lately he’s been the guy we know. It’s good to see him making adjustments and whenever he’s on point, he’s our big guy.”

However Acuna goes about it, whatever he adjusts or leaves the same, it’s worked more often than not in his young career. Snitker alluded to using the refreshed lineup “for a while” and seeing how it performs, meaning there’s more leadoff Acuna to come.

“It’s like I’ve previously said, I’m going to feel good no matter where they put me,” Acuna said. “I’m just happy to be in the lineup.”