Another HR, this one a slam, as Ynoa cruises

May 5th, 2021

With his second home run in as many starts, it’s fair to say that has rightfully earned the nickname of “Designated Huascar.”

In addition to allowing just one unearned run over seven innings, the Braves right-hander put the game out of reach with a grand slam in Atlanta’s 6-1 win over Washington on Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

“Incredible,” said on Ynoa’s performance. “He did a great job, and he did what we expected him to do. I mean, we’ve come to expect that from him on the mound and at the plate.”

In the top of the sixth inning the Braves loaded the bases, after an RBI single by gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead. Ynoa crushed a 95 mph fastball 427 feet to straightaway center with an exit velocity of 107.4 mph off the bat. As soon as he felt contact, it was clear Ynoa knew it was gone.

Ynoa is the first pitcher since the Braves moved to Atlanta to homer in back-to-back starts, and the first in franchise history to do it since both Lew Burdette and Warren Spahn accomplished the feat in June 1961, when the team still played in Milwaukee.

“I’m super happy to hear that and I feel super grateful," Ynoa said. “Like I keep saying over and over again, my mentality up there is just to get a hit, and I'm just feeling really grateful.”

Ynoa picked up his first career home run on April 28 in a 10-0 win over the Cubs, and now has a .385 average with two home runs and six RBIs on the season.

“Truth be told, I put a lot of work into my hitting going into camp this year," Ynoa said. "I don't go in an inning trying to hit a home run. All I'm trying to do is get on base, or just get a hit because that's not where the danger is. The danger is facing Acuña next. All I'm trying to do is get on base and let the hitters, the actual hitters, do the rest of the damage.”

He wasn't the only pitcher raking on Tuesday. In Cincinnati, Dylan Cease of the White Sox went 3-for-3 in the first at-bats of his career. It's the first time in 71 years that one pitcher hit a grand slam and a pitcher in a different game had three hits.

Ynoa is the first Braves pitcher to hit a grand slam since Jaime García on July 21, 2017, against the Dodgers.

"I’d seen that he’s been swinging it pretty well, so I knew kind of going in, I can’t take it lightly,” said Nationals reliever Tanner Rainey, who gave up the slam. “Then obviously the first pitch -- not really close to the zone -- he kind of swings, a pretty big swing, and the next one was hopefully down and away located and it didn’t get there. It was something he could handle, and obviously he put a good swing on it."

Ynoa also dazzled from the mound. Coming into the season there was uncertainty whether Ynoa could be an effective starter when primarily using two pitches.

Ynoa has succeeded thus far, though, especially when his fastball reaches 99.6 mph, like it did on Tuesday.

“He worked in a lot more changeups tonight," manager Brian Snitker said, "that's going to be really good for him too as he continues to start. The command of the strike zone he has, and with his fastball and the feel for his breaking ball, and he's just throwing the ball really well."

After allowing a leadoff single in the bottom of the first, Ynoa retired the next 10 batters he faced. Although Ynoa did it all for the Braves on Tuesday, he did have the help of Contreras and Acuña -- who hit his 10th home run of the year in the fifth inning, becoming the first Major Leaguer to reach that mark in 2021.

When Ynoa notched the final out of the seventh inning -- during which the Nationals pushed across an unearned run -- he achieved a feat only one other Atlanta starter had accomplished this season, pitching a full seven innings. On April 27, Ian Anderson went seven innings with eight strikeouts and just one hit to lead the Braves to a 5-0 victory against the Cubs.

Ynoa made it a point to attack the strike zone. He struck out four and and allowed four hits and two walks, largely due to the high velocity and control of his fastball and slider. Ynoa is now 3-1 on the year with a 2.36 ERA and has helped compensate for the absence of both Max Fried and Mike Soroka as they recover from injuries.