TORONTO -- Charlie Culberson might not have a lot of experience as an outfielder. But the Braves' utility player still knew that even though he was having trouble breathing, it was important to show he had made what could have been described as both a jaw-dropping and jaw-aching catch."It didn't
TORONTO -- Charlie Culberson might not have a lot of experience as an outfielder. But the Braves' utility player still knew that even though he was having trouble breathing, it was important to show he had made what could have been described as both a jaw-dropping and jaw-aching catch.
"It didn't feel great," Culberson said. "I couldn't breathe. It knocked the breath out of me. I immediately thought, 'Let me show the ball.' I was thinking, 'I'm going to sit here for a second because I can't really move.'"
Culberson saved at least two runs when he snared Kevin Pillar's long drive on the warning track and then slammed into the left-center-field wall during the first inning of Tuesday's 11-4 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Culberson also once again proved that he is capable of hitting home runs that do not end games.
"I thought it was a home run off the bat," Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka said. "I looked up and I saw Charlie just giving it [his all] and when he came down with it on the track and went into the wall. ... That's one of the first 'Holy Cow' plays I've seen. I definitely owe him dinner."
Soroka was laboring through the first inning of his first career start in his home country. It looked like he was going to encounter an early deficit when Pillar came to the plate with two on and two outs. The Blue Jays' outfielder jumped on a hanging 2-2 slider and then saw Culberson turn what seemed to be an extra-base hit into a defensive gem.
"Off the bat, I knew he hit it really well," Culberson said. "I was just trying to take a shot at it. I ended up getting to it and just wanted to get to the ball. That was a fun play. It was neat to watch it on TV afterwards."
Per Statcast™, Culberson ran 83 feet in five seconds to record a four-star catch on the long drive that had a 48% catch probability. That's not bad for a guy who has made 36 career starts as an outfielder. Twenty of those starts were made for the 2013 Rockies. The other 16 have been tallied since May 28, when he began playing left field in place of the injured Ronald Acuna Jr.
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"I'm still getting used to reads off the bat in left field," Culberson said. "I feel like you don't get the same one twice. So I'm doing my best to take the best routes and just being athletic. That one just turned out well for us."
After slamming into the wall, Culberson fell on his back and raised the ball toward the sky in his right hand. He remained on the ground for a minute and then made his way toward the dugout under his own power.
"I was just wondering if I was going to be able to make it out there," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I said, 'He'll be healed by the time I get out there.'"
Culberson capped a two-hit night with a ninth-inning leadoff double and began it with a fourth-inning solo shot, just the sixth of his 10 career home runs that have not ended a game. He has hit .323 with four homers and a .944 OPS over the 66 plate appearances totaled since he became Acuna's primary replacement.
"Down the road, this will benefit Charlie and us to amass all of these at-bats," Snitker said. "You couldn't ask anybody to do any better than he has."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.