CINCINNATI — Ronald Acuna Jr. wowed with his power and impressed with the speed he displayed as he provided a glimpse of his five-tool talents while leading the Braves to a 7-4 win over the Reds on Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
Acuna notched his first career home run in impressive fashion to begin the second inning and then capped a three-hit performance with the game-winning bloop double he produced as the Braves regained the lead in the eighth and held on to split this four-game series.
“It’s always good to get that first homer,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He clocked that ball. But he just shows you what he brings. That set of legs is going to be really valuable for us, the way he can run around and how athletic he is. He definitely makes our club better.”
After Freddie Freeman recorded the last of his three doubles to begin the decisive eighth, Acuna got jammed on Wandy Peralta’s first-pitch fastball, but still managed to direct it into no-man’s land in shallow right field for a two-out RBI double. The 20-year-old phenom raced home when Dansby Swanson followed with a single.
“The real good ones make an immediate impact,” Snitker said. “This kid has skills. He’s an asset for us, whether he’s batting, in the field or on the bases. It’s nice to have him.”
Acuna notched his first career hit during Wednesday’s Major League debut and then experienced the thrill of his first homer when he opened Thursday’s second inning by drilling Homer Bailey’s 3-1 slider a projected 416 feet into the second deck located beyond the left-field seats. The majestic solo shot came in what was just the sixth career plate appearance for the young outfielder, who ranks as baseball’s second-best prospect per MLB Pipeline.
“It was truly a unique moment,” Acuna said through an interpreter. “I really enjoyed being able to get my first home run in the big leagues. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
With the addition of Acuna, the Braves have enhanced the opportunities to produce the youthul, energetic brand of baseball that has been displayed as Swanson and 21-year-old Ozzie Albies have spent the season’s first two months proving to be consistent offensive assets.
Albies extended his power surge with the two-run homer he hit off Bailey in the fifth inning. The Braves second baseman is tied for the Major League lead with eight home runs. His ninth-inning RBI double increased his league-leading extra-base total to 19, a mark that had never previously been reached by the end of April by any Braves player.
By Mark Bowman