Just when you thought Ronald Acuna was mortal, he demolishes a ball over the left field wall.
Sporting an early 0-for-2, Acuna came up in the sixth inning and hammered a two-run homer to give Gwinnett a 4-3 lead over Lehigh Valley at Coolray Field Monday. A ninth inning collapse resulted in an 8-4 G-Braves loss, but Acuna’s impact was felt again.
“I’m happy to be here on the field once again to do what I do best,” Acuna said through a translator. “Just to have fun and play my baseball game, to enjoy it when I’m playing.”
The home run went 370 feet, coming off the bat at 114 mph. It was the hardest hit ball by a Brave at any level this season, surpassing Acuna’s own hit in the Future’s Game (112) July 9.
Matt Kemp hit the hardest ball at the major league level, registering at 111.9.
Acuna’s shot came off IronPigs starter Tom Eshelman, who was leading the International League in ERA (1.97).
“I was just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere,” he said. “I was just looking for a pitch to handle and manage and just hit the ball hard. Fortunately it was a home run.”
Second baseman and touted prospect Ozzie Albies led off with a hit up the middle before Acuna’s blast, giving Braves fans a potential preview of the future.
Acuna went 1-for-4, but two of the outs weren’t quiet. His first out was a deep fly to right; his last was a deep fly to left. He had a strikeout looking in his second plate appearance.
The 19-year-old outfielder is hitting .286 with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs in his first five games at Triple-A. He’s had two multi-hit games in that span.
Acuna said he hasn’t been nervous at all since joining the team last week in Charlotte.
“It’s the same baseball game,” he said. “But in Triple-A, you have more big leaguers than in Mississippi and Double-A. So Triple-A is more about big leaguers and better pitching.”
His .311 average and 33 stolen bases across Advanced-A Florida, Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett rank best in the Braves’ system. His 54 RBIs rank second, while his 14 homers place third.
Acuna said he was surprised he hit the ball that hard, but it made him happy to hear that it was a season-best in the organization. When asked if it was his hardest hit yet, Acuna smiled.
“One of the most, yes,” he said, laughing.
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