ATLANTA -- Asked about hitting the longest home run of his career and the second-longest produced by a Braves player within the past five seasons, Ronald Acuña Jr. smiled about the eighth-inning solo homer he hit in Thursday night’s 6-3 loss to the Mets and then indicated he has a
ATLANTA -- Asked about hitting the longest home run of his career and the second-longest produced by a Braves player within the past five seasons, Ronald Acuña Jr. smiled about the eighth-inning solo homer he hit in Thursday night’s 6-3 loss to the Mets and then indicated he has a little more in the tank.
“It obviously feels good,” Acuna said through an interpreter. “As a hitter, you want to hit homers whenever you get the chance. So, honestly, it felt good. But I feel I could have hit it a little better.”
With all due regard to this self analysis, it’s hard to believe Acuna could have put a prettier swing on the Luis Avilan fastball that he drilled off the second deck facade and onto the concourse beyond SunTrust Park’s left-field fence. The solo shot traveled a projected 462 feet, besting the young phenom’s previous long by 10 feet and falling one foot shy of the 463-foot shot Freddie Freeman hit off Mets ace Jacob deGrom on June 13, 2015.
Freeman’s homer stands as the longest hit by a Braves player since Statcast began tracking this data in 2015. But just 123 games and 475 at-bats into his career, Acuna already has produced three of the five longest homers hit by an Atlanta player within this span.
More importantly, Acuna has raised his batting average from .129 to .262 as he has gone 7-for-11 with three homers and a triple dating back to Monday. The 21-year-old outfielder has homered in each of the past three games to raise his team-high total to five. He has homered once every 12.75 at-bats while producing MLB’s fourth-highest homer total (24) dating back to last year’s All-Star break.
“He’s swinging the bat good, and it’s going to end up being a lot of run production, too,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s been hitting the ball so hard and not getting anything for it. Now, he’s starting to find some holes and putting them in the seats.”
Each of the three balls Acuna put in play during Thursday’s loss had a triple-digit exit velocity. His first-inning RBI triple off Steven Matz was clocked at 101.2 mph, and his sixth-inning single came off the bat at 102.5 mph. His majestic homer registered 111.5 mph, making it the third highest exit velocity he has produced with any of his 31 career homers.
These readings will enhance the 94.3 mph (15th highest among MLB players with at least 25 balls in play) average exit velocity he carried into this series opener against the Mets. He entered Thursday hitting .211, but his .322 expected batting average (calculated using exit velocity and launch angle) and .622 expected slugging percentage indicated he was bound to find his current hot streak.
“I’m a ballplayer that knows himself, and I’m patient,” Acuna said. “Just because things are going poorly or I’m not getting the results I want, I’m not going to change my routine or the approach I take.”
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.