MLB

Ronald Acuña Jr. hits leadoff home run in win

Ronald Acuña Jr. hits leadoff home run in win

ATLANTA — Following Friday’s record setting night, the Braves picked up right where they left off thanks to the bats of their favorite duo, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies, in a 6-1 victory over the Pirates on Saturday at Truist Park.

When Pirates starter Mitch Keller delivered the first pitch in the bottom of the first, Acuña wasted no time sending a 108.5 mph line drive over the left-center wall to give him his third leadoff homer of the season. He also extended his own franchise record to 22 leadoff homers for his career. The long ball gave Acuña 15 home runs on the season to take the lead in the Majors.

“Special, that’s him. That’s Ronald,” said Albies. “He tells you, ‘I’m going deep.’ He throws the first pitch there, and he says, ‘I’m taking it deep,’ and he does it. Something that he always does, the confidence he brings. He’s a guy that just goes out there and does him, and does what he needs to do.”

In the bottom of the fifth, Albies joined the party. With Freddie Freeman on first, Albies hit a two-run homer over the right-field wall to give the Braves a four-run lead. In the bottom of the seventh, Albies returned to the batter’s box, but this time from the right side of the plate. Albies looked more than comfortable and hit a solo homer over the left-field wall to give the Braves a five-run lead. This marks the sixth multihomer game of his career and the 14th time in franchise history that a hitter homered from both sides of the plate, with the last time coming from Albies on July 11, 2018, against the Blue Jays.

“I feel great. See the ball, choose a good pitch in the zone and put the barrel on it. Just got to keep going, keep believing in what you can do and keep battling out there,” said Albies.

Albies now has nine homers on the season, and he has begun to come alive over the past few weeks, improving his line to .231/.302/.491. Saturday’s performance marks the second time he has homered from both sides of the plate, and he now trails only Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, who holds the franchise record for the feat with six.

To go along with an impressive start from the mound, Bryse Wilson joined in on the fun and picked up his first hit of the season on a line-drive single to right field. However, in Wilson’s first plate appearance, Keller hit him with a 92.5 mph fastball, which nearly connected with Wilson’s face as he squared to bunt. Luckily, Wilson was able to pivot so the ball struck the index finger on his right hand.

“When he had his debut against the Pirates [in 2018] that was the one thing that stood out, was that changeup,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “Personally I think he started messing with the slider so much that he lost feel of his changeup a little bit. Two starts ago in [Triple-A] Gwinnett, he broke out his changeup really well and it’s a really good pitch for him. The fact that he throws strikes is huge. I’m just glad when he got hit that it didn’t affect him.”

Wilson did it all for the Braves and made it a point to attack the strike zone early. He allowed his defense to shine and forced 12 batters into a groundout or flyout. He finished the game with four strikeouts and allowed one run on five hits through 6 2/3 innings. It marked the longest outing of his career.

“Fastball command was good,” said Wilson. “We were able to keep them on their heels between the four-seam and the two-seam, and the changeup was really good today. Really I was just able to pound the zone and throw a lot of strikes.”

Besides Acuña, Austin Riley has been arguably the Braves’ hottest hitter. Riley went 2-for-4 with an RBI. He is hitting .315/.412/.510 with seven home runs. Along with Riley’s two-hit performance, Freeman had another strong performance at the plate. Freeman stuffed the stat sheet, going 2-for-2 with an RBI, two walks and a stolen base.

“Yeah, it’s started clicking. It looks better, feels better, and for the team, it’s a different type of game that we’re playing. We hope to keep it going and have better games out there,” said Albies.


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