Acuña breaks homer drought in loss to Mets

August 5th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The Braves can’t win the National League East during this weekend’s big series against the Mets. But they can feel better about their bid for a second straight World Series title if  truly is starting to break out of his two-month funk. 

Acuña created optimism when he homered for the first time in nearly a month on Thursday night at Citi Field. But his two-run shot wasn’t enough to overcome the four homers Kyle Wright surrendered in a 6-4 loss to the Mets.

Acuna’s homer during a three-run fifth snapped his homerless streak at 18 games. The only longer drought of his career was a 19-game stretch from April 17-May 7, 2019. 

“That was big and it had been awhile,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Acuña’s homer. “You never know what is going to turn a guy around. I’ve been feeling good about him.”

This isn’t the way the Braves wanted to begin a five-game series against the Mets, who now own a 4 1/2-game lead. But as Wright was enduring one of his first ugly outings of the year, Acuña was showing he might be coming to life just in time to play a key role in what could be this year’s best division race. 

Given the Braves were 52-54 and five games back at this same point (through 106 games) of last year’s championship season, they certainly aren’t going to be fazed by this one loss. More worrisome would be the thought that Acuña was going to struggle the rest of this season. The three-time All-Star entered this series opener having hit .211 with two homers and a .580 OPS over his past 38 games, going back to June 12.

Acuña hit .316 with a .950 OPS during the first 31 games he played after coming off the injured list at the end of April. His instant success was somewhat surprising given he missed approximately 10 months after tearing his right ACL on July 10, 2021, while attempting to make a catch along the warning track in Miami. 

“It’s all part of the process; I’m hoping for better days,” Acuña said through a translator. “The knee, with my swing it doesn’t always feel the same. Some days, I feel like I have confidence in it and some days I don’t feel like I have confidence in it.”

Acuña certainly appeared confident when he drilled Carlos Carrasco’s 1-2 slider into the Home Run Apple beyond the center-field wall. The 425-foot shot was his first home run over a span of 75 at-bats going back to July 8.

“That [swing] was impressive,” Wright said. “He’s starting to look better, a lot more comfortable. Any time he can get hot, just watch us go. He’s just a big piece to this team and it was great to see him put that swing on the ball.”

Wright struggled with his command as he surrendered a pair of home runs to Tyler Naquin and allowed Pete Alonso to go back-to-back with Daniel Vogelbach in the third inning. This was the first time a Braves pitcher allowed four home runs in a game since Drew Smyly on Aug. 30, 2021, at Dodger Stadium.

It just seemed to be one of those games for Wright, who entered with a 2.93 ERA through 20 starts. For Acuña, it was a game that could certainly distance himself from the frustration he may have felt over the past couple of months.

Per Statcast, Acuña produced a .253 expected batting average and a .391 expected slugging percentage over a 38-game span from June 12 through Wednesday. Both numbers trumped the batting average (.211) and slugging percentage (.270) he tallied during this span. His .261 batting average on balls in play also indicates he has had some tough luck.

“I feel good, we just haven't been getting the results that we want,” Acuña said. “The important thing is the team is playing well.”