Acuña torches 2 HRs ... with an icy twist

Slugger honors Atlanta counterpart Trae Young with celebration

June 8th, 2022

ATLANTA --  After capping Sunday’s four-hit performance in Denver with a home run, Ronald Acuña Jr. said his next home run would be followed by Trae Young’s “Ice Trae” celebration. The Atlanta Hawks star responded by tweeting, “Well … at least we know this will be soon!!” 

“I mean, he called it,” Acuña said through an interpreter. “He said it wasn’t going to be long before a celebration happened. I’m glad I didn’t take too long to make that happen either.” 

Acuña homered in each of his first two plate appearances in a 3-2 victory over the A’s at Truist Park, giving the Braves a season-best six-game winning streak on Tuesday night. The superstar outfielder extended his franchise record to 24 leadoff homers and then capped his eighth career multi-homer game by supporting a stellar Kyle Wright with another solo shot in the third.

After hitting his first leadoff homer of the year, Acuña came out of the box, took a few steps down the first-base line and then folded his arms and made a shivering motion akin to the one Young has shown after making a big shot down the stretch.  

“I was wondering where Acuña was at first after he hit it,” Wright said. “Then I saw the board and saw he was doing the ‘Ice Trae’ celebration. He said he was going to do it. He did it. So that is pretty cool.” 

Young responded by tweeting, “Told y’all it wouldn’t be long.”

Acuña didn’t wait long to hit his next. His third-inning solo drive gave him a home run in three straight plate appearances going back to Sunday. He became the first Braves player to do so since Matt Kemp enjoyed a three-homer game in Milwaukee on April 29, 2017. The only other Major Leaguers to homer in three straight plate appearances this year are the Nationals’ Lane Thomas, the D-backs’ Josh Rojas, the Reds’ Colin Moran and the Twins’ Byron Buxton.

“I feel like I’m back to 100%,” Acuña said. “At the beginning of the season, there were some aches and pains I had never experienced. I’m not making any excuses, but I think that would affect my timing and my comfortability a little bit.”

Acuña has certainly looked comfortable while hitting 10-for-22 (.455) with a 1.389 OPS through the first five games he’s played in June. He entered Sunday’s final at-bat without a homer in his past 83 plate appearances. The ones that followed erased any concerns about his power since returning from a torn right ACL on April 28. 

“He’s an elite talent, a special talent,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s something else when he gets on one of those streaks. Hopefully, we can continue to bring him along and get him to that date when we can take all the shackles off and turn him loose.”

The medical staff has advised the Braves not to allow Acuña to play right field on an everyday basis until July 22, the one-year anniversary of the ACL surgery. The club will take advantage of the option to occasionally use the 24-year-old slugger as a designated hitter. But Snitker and others have been encouraged while watching Acuña play right field four of the past five days, including three straight in Colorado.

“He has a good night every night, even on his quiet nights,” Wright said. “When he does what he did tonight, to hit two homers in his first two at-bats, that was huge to get the offense going. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Wright strengthened his All-Star credentials with an impressive eight-inning effort, and Guillermo Heredia hit the game-winning homer a couple of hours after being inserted into the lineup for Adam Duvall, who was scratched with left triceps cramping. But the night’s most encouraging developments centered on Acuña, who has proven he is back to being a difference-maker.

When Acuña homered against the Brewers on May 7, he honored his childhood idol LeBron James by performing “The Silencer” celebration. James added to the moment by tweeting at the Braves outfielder.

Now, the only question is whether Acuña will go with “Ice Trae” or “The Silencer” after future home runs.

“I’m going to keep doing both,” Acuña said.