When Cristian Pache is asked to tell the story of his first big league home run, the Braves’ rookie center fielder will be able to say he was in the same place as only six other players in Major League history: the playoffs.
Pache -- the Braves’ No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- homered down the left-field line against Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington. His shot off a 93.9 mph fastball traveled a Statcast-estimated 388 feet and put Atlanta on the board in the third inning of its 15-3 loss.
Pache was a silver lining as the Braves dropped their first game of the 2020 playoffs in a series they still lead, 2-1. He joined Joe Blanton (2008), Melvin Mora (1999), Don Gullett (‘75), Mickey Lolich (‘68), Frank Demaree (‘32) and Rosy Ryan (‘24) as the only players to hit their first homer in the postseason. Of that group, he is just the third non-pitcher, joining Mora and Demaree.
Before even making his second career postseason start on Wednesday, Pache already described the opportunity as "a dream come true."
"I think every baseball player kind of dreams of reaching the playoffs and then, ultimately, winning a World Series," he added. "For me, I can’t ask for much more. This is what I’ve always wanted, to be able to play in these types of situations.”
Pache homered a month shy of his 22nd birthday, making him one of four players in Braves history to belt a postseason home run at 21 years or younger. Only teammate Ronald Acuña Jr., Brian McCann and Andruw Jones -- Pache’s mentor -- were younger.
Looking deeper into baseball history, Pache is the fifth-youngest center fielder to go yard in the playoffs -- older than just Acuña, Jones, Bryce Harper and Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle.
"We’ve always known he has a lot of talent,” Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “He’s definitely one of the best center fielders I’ve seen, especially at his age. He works and, from what I understand, he’s very coachable.”
Swanson added, “It’s a dream come true to be able to play on this stage and in this moment. He’s thriving in every bit of it that he can."
When opportunities arise, it’s a matter of capitalizing on them. Pache stepped in when left fielder Adam Duvall sustained a left oblique strain on Monday night in Game 1 of the NLCS. He has started in center field in Games 2 and 3, and he has a double and a homer in his 10 postseason at-bats.
“I’m really happy for him,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s had some good at-bats since we put him in there, and that’s great. This is a great training ground for him and a great experience. He’s handled himself really, really well.”
Pache made his Major League debut on Aug. 21 and appeared in two regular-season games. He has received advice over his career from Braves icon Andruw Jones, with whom he has drawn comparisons at the same position.
“He was there at the game yesterday watching me, and I feel extremely grateful that he’s taking the time to help me along,” Pache said. “I feel extremely grateful to be compared to him. In my eyes, he’s a legend. Any time that I get compared to him, I feel really grateful for that.”
For all the notable company he joined with the Game 3 blast, Pache is showing he’s on his way to making his own mark in baseball.
“For me, I just felt extremely overjoyed and grateful to be given the opportunity,” he said.