With Braves’ runners loading the bases, Rafael Ortega stepped up to bat as Atlanta trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers by two in the sixth inning Sunday at SunTrust Park.
Behind a second strike and a foul ball, the Venezuelan outfielder hit a 390-foot home run over the right field wall.
The grand slam would pull the Braves out of a 3-1 slump and give Atlanta a 5-3 lead that would ultimately win the game and the series against the Dodgers.
In four at-bats on Sunday, Ortega earned 4 RBIs and a home run in one hit. The victory marks a 3-of-2 outcome during the outfielder’s time with the Braves.
Ortega was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett last week for the first game of the New York Met’s series due to Braves injuries. In his four previous Atlanta appearances, he earned two hits and a double off of five at-bats.
In Gwinnett, Ortega hit a career-high 21 home runs in 111 plate appearances. Before that, he had hit just 48 home runs in 1,103 games over an 11-year professional career that began in 2008 with the DSL Rockies.
“This is probably the best minor league season I’ve had so far in my career,” he said. “I’m hopeful and planning to bring those numbers, the attitude and dedication I was showing down there up to Atlanta.”
Ortega made his MLB debut in 2012 with the Colorado Rockies against the Dodgers and has swung back-and-forth between the majors and minors since then, making appearances for the Los Angeles Angels and the Miami Marlins last year.
“He went to Triple-A and didn’t saw a word,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Just had a really solid year down there and got a chance to come up here and contribute.”
On Sunday, Ortega capitalized in his 114th career major-league game.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “When moments like that happen, it’s obviously just incredible.”
The Dodgers took an early lead off a three-run homer in the first inning. While the Braves managed one run in the fourth, an Atlanta comeback seemed doubtful, especially after Snitker pulled Ronald Acuna in the fifth for not running on what he incorrectly assumed was a home run.
But the unexpected grand slam from Ortega secured the series win.
“In that spot being able to come up with any kind of a hit, and that home run obviously put us on top and gave us a little bit of a boost,” starting pitcher Max Fried said. “It could be anyone; it’s just waiting for someone to do something special.”