On Thursday, Major League Baseball presented “Opening Day at Home” -- a full slate of 30 games broadcast nationally across various platforms including networks, digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. The experience was intended to invite fans to feel a sense of community and unity on a day many were looking forward to while underscoring the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Using the hashtag #OpeningDayAtHome, fans connected with each other while watching their team’s selected game at a set time. Braves fans were able to relive the thrill of Ronald Acuña Jr.'s grand slam against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the 2018 National League Division Series.
“Opening Day at Home” also was an opportunity for MLB to raise awareness for several worthy charities that are helping provide relief to the most vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic. Last week, MLB and the MLBPA made a $1 million joint donation to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels, in addition to a $30 million commitment made by MLB clubs to emergency relief for ballpark employees. If so willing and able, fans can contribute toward these charities, MLB official charity Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and additional causes at MLB.com/give.
Having lost the first two games of this best-of-five series, the Braves were staring at the possibility of being swept by the Dodgers, who had won 16 of the past 21 games against Atlanta dating back to the first month of the 2016 season. Atlanta pulled Sean Newcomb out of the bullpen to oppose Walker Buehler, who had posted a 1.55 ERA over his last 12 regular-season starts.
But as the Braves extended the series with a 6-5 win in front of their raucous hometown fans, they once again proved anything can happen in the postseason, especially when you have Acuña on your side.
When fans reminisce about what happened on that Sunday night in Atlanta, many will likely remember that Acuña became the youngest player in MLB history to hit a grand slam in a postseason game. But some might not recall the unexpected turn of events that gave the 20-year-old phenom a chance to deliver his first career postseason homer in grand fashion.
After Newcomb faced the minimum through the first two innings, Buehler encountered trouble in the bottom of the second. Nick Markakis drew a leadoff walk and Ozzie Albies extended the frame with a two-out single. With first base open courtesy of an error, the Dodgers opted to intentionally walk Charlie Culberson to get to Newcomb, who strolled to the plate with a .042 (3-for-72) career batting average.
Newcomb had drawn three walks in 89 previous plate appearances and, dating back to his 2017 MLB debut, Buehler had not issued a walk to any of the nine previous batters he’d faced with the bases loaded. So, you can understand why there was a feeling of shock when Newcomb drew a four-pitch walk to snap the 19-inning scoreless drought the Braves endured to start this series.
Buehler then fell behind Acuña with a 3-0 count before getting a generous strike called on a high fastball. But the call ended up benefiting the Braves, who saw their young outfielder drill the next pitch into the left-center-field seats.
At 20 years and 293 days old, Acuña became the youngest player in MLB history and just the seventh Braves player to hit a grand slam in a postseason game. The only players to homer at a younger age in a playoff game were Andruw Jones, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Miguel Cabrera.
While Acuña’s homer might have been the most historic one tallied in this game, the decisive moment came courtesy of a sixth-inning showdown between two guys who were drafted by the Braves in second round of the MLB Draft five years apart.
This week, MLB unlocked its expansive vault and is offering fans special access to the most unforgettable moments. MLB has made the entire 2018 and 2019 game archives free to all fans through MLB.TV. Fans can also access more than 200 full classic MLB games on YouTube including timeless World Series games, memorable postseason matchups, no-hitters and perfect games.