ATLANTA -- Braves phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. has put together a special rookie season, and with another leadoff home run in the Braves' 5-1 win over the Pirates on Sunday, it became historic.Acuna took Pirates starter Nick Kingham deep to left field on a 1-0 fastball up and in, which
ATLANTA -- Braves phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. has put together a special rookie season, and with another leadoff home run in the Braves' 5-1 win over the Pirates on Sunday, it became historic.
Acuna took Pirates starter Nick Kingham deep to left field on a 1-0 fastball up and in, which gave him seven leadoff home runs this season. That tied him with Marquis Grissom (1997) for the most by a Braves player in a single season.
The blast also moved Acuna into a tie for the second-most leadoff homers by a rookie with Nomar Garciaparra (1997) and Hanley Ramirez ('06). Chris Young holds the record with nine leadoff homers in '07.
"You read that stuff on the board, and I'm sitting here watching it, and I don't realize it's that good," manager Brian Snitker said. "You want to make sure you're up there because you might miss something when he's at the plate."
Acuna's shot was a no-doubter, leaving the bat at 109.7 mph and traveling a projected 430 feet, according to Statcast™. It was his 36th barrel of the year and his 115th ball hit at 95 mph or harder.
"The patience he has is impressive," Kingham said. "He doesn't swing at much outside the strike zone. He knows what he hits, and he hits it well. When he gets it, he hits it. He makes sure that he doesn't miss it. That's the biggest thing, I feel like. He's a professional hitter and he knows what he's doing up there."
The 20-year-old outfielder took over as the Braves' leadoff hitter on July 20 and hasn't looked back since. He led off five straight games with a home run from Aug. 11-14 -- a streak that was only broken when Marlins starter Jose Urena hit him on the hand to start the sixth game.
Acuna's 23 home runs this season -- along with a slash line of .296/.361/.577 -- have him squarely in the discussion for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. And the Braves have been playing especially well when Acuna goes deep in the first: The team is 6-1 when he gives them an early spark with a leadoff homer.
"It's part of me and my personality and kind of just the baseball player that I am," Acuna said through a translator. "It's just the energy that I try to bring. I've mentioned it before: the energy is contagious. I just try to make sure I bring it out there and try to help everyone the way I can that way."
Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com.