Pache hits slam for 1st regular-season HR

Acuña connects for home run No. 9; d'Arnaud exits with thumb injury

May 2nd, 2021

In his first game back from injury, returned in style with a 411-foot grand slam, but it wouldn't be enough as the Braves fell, 6-5, in 10 innings to the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark on Saturday night.

This was Pache’s first career grand slam as well as his first regular-season home run. The last Braves player to hit a grand slam for his first regular-season home run was Jace Peterson on May 16, 2015. Pache, the Braves’ top prospect, hit a solo shot in Game 3 of the 2020 National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.

With two outs and the bases loaded, Pache was thrown right into the fire in his first plate appearance and stunned Blue Jays lefty Tommy Milone as he took him to straightaway center.

“Obviously very happy and proud of the first home run of the season and first grand slam of the career,” said Pache. “I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be able to contribute to the team, and I'm really happy and excited to be back.”

Since being activated from the IL on April 24, Pache has been taking time at the alternate training site to work on his swing and get his head back in the game. Prior to Saturday’s matchup, Braves manager Brian Snitker stated that he has received good reports on the outfielder’s progress and is sure to be pleased with Pache’s first homer of the season.

Coming into Saturday’s game, Pache had a .133 average, but this home run may prove a turning point for Atlanta’s young outfielder. During his time at the alternate training site, Pache primarily worked on timing along with hitting line drives and hitting to the opposite field.

“The head coaches down there were definitely very helpful to me in the sense [that] I had some extra time where I could really break down the film on my swing and see where I was making some mistakes and addressing that. You kind of see that now,” said Pache.

Luckily for the Braves, no matter who is struggling from the plate, they can always count on Ronald Acuña Jr. for a hit. In the top of the fifth inning, Acuña hit a 112.4 mph laser over the left-field wall to add to the Braves’ lead and push the score to 5-2. This homer gives Acuña his ninth on the season and the 90th of his career.

“Last year, it seemed like we got multiple hits and scored multiple runs, and it's not happening right now,” said Snitker. “We had the deck stacked in our favor a couple of times and just couldn’t get a big hit to continue to add on runs.”

Charlie Morton started for the Braves and once again had another effective outing. Atlanta jumped out to an early 4-0 lead on Pache's slam but, in the bottom of the third, George Springer hit a two-run homer to cut the Braves’ lead in half. The blast was the first in a two-homer game for Springer, with the second coming in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 5.

Despite the home run, Morton stayed composed and delivered two perfect innings to give the Braves some needed momentum. He allowed four runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts through 5 1/3 innings.

“I felt like I did OK,” said Morton. “We did a better job tonight of mixing speeds. I felt like we did a pretty good job to limit the damage, especially in this park against this lineup. But [in] the sixth inning, it’s like just free passes. I thought we did a pretty good job.”

“Charlie’s good. Overall the stuff is really, really good. The walks in the sixth inning were the big thing,” said Snitker. “It's hard, and you can't walk two guys to start that inning.”

Morton was replaced in the bottom of the sixth by Edgar Santana after hitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a pitch, giving up a walk and allowing a single to Randal Grichuk, who was eventually thrown out at the plate. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud injured his left thumb on the play and will be placed on the 10-day injured list.

It was Grichuk, however, who had the bases-loaded, walk-off single in the 10th off Nate Jones to sink the Braves.

With this loss the Braves have not only lost the series but are in danger of getting swept by the Blue Jays. However, despite a few unfortunate walks and a lack of hits in extra innings, Atlanta’s young core remains positive.

“It's going to be filled with highs and lows, but I think when the lows happen you have to take advantage of them. Those are learning opportunities, so you need to make the most of those struggles and turn them into positives,” said Pache. “God willing, we will continue to find success and good things come the rest of the season.”