The Atlanta Braves have seen this before from Ronald Acuna Jr., but this time, it came at the worst possible time.
The Braves outfielder is one of the most exciting, dynamic young players in all of baseball, but he has a penchant for loafing it from time to time. He proved he’s yet to fully kick the habit Thursday night in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
In the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, Acuna hit a deep fly ball to right field. Apparently unsure of whether the ball would be a home run or a foul ball, Acuna took his time getting to first base. Of course, the ball bounced off the wall (in fair territory) with Acuna still shuffling down the basepath. The ball was quickly retrieved and Acuna was held to a single on a hit that should have been two bases.
“It’s frustrating, but I think you have that conversation once,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman told reporters. “You kind of beat the dead horse if you keep having that same conversation over and over again. You’ve gotta know that’s a mistake. It can’t happen in the playoffs. It can’t happen in the regular season. Unfortunately, that happened tonight.”
Asked what he thought of the play, Braves manager Brian Snitker said, “Um, that he should have been on second.”
It also sounds as if Snitker might have benched Acuna in a different situation.
“And we’re kind of shorthanded to do anything about it right there,” he added. “You hate to see it happen.”
Acuna’s defense of the play, meanwhile, was, similar to Acuna’s effort: lackluster.
“These things happen. It’s baseball. Those are the kinds of things that happen,” he told reporters.
The Braves eventually blew their late lead and fell behind 7-3 entering the bottom of the ninth. Acuna somewhat redeemed himself by launching a missile into the left-field seats off Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez.
Acuna understandably was excited about the round-tripper, and he didn’t hide it, celebrating as he rounded the bases. Martinez then allowed a home run to Freeman that brought Atlanta within one run. However, Martinez eventually slammed the door shut, and was more excited than usual to close out the game, even giving the Braves’ dugout a look or two.
That apparently was, in part, because Acuna also rubbed Martinez the wrong way.
Chances are, you won’t find much argument in the Braves clubhouse, either.
Game 2 is Friday afternoon in Atlanta.