Unlikely Brave leads homer show at Wrigley

April 19th, 2021

If Braves manager Brian Snitker had his wish, he would likely hit the fast-forward button and distance himself from the challenges that have mounted as many significant injuries have depleted his roster over the past week.

But he wouldn’t be opposed to being reintroduced to the thrill he experienced at Wrigley Field on Sunday night, when his club belted four first-inning home runs and saw cap his first career two-homer game with a grand slam in a 13-4 win over the Cubs.

Freddie Freeman, Travis d’Arnaud, Ehire Adrianza and Heredia all homered off Kyle Hendricks during Atlanta’s’ six-run first inning. That marked the ninth time in history the Braves hit as many as four home runs in one inning.

It was the first time they did so in the first inning since Rafael Furcal, Mark DeRosa, Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez went deep during the opening frame of a 15-3 win over the Reds on May 28, 2003.

“I’ve had it done to me more than once,” Snitker said. “I don’t know that I’ve had a club hit four homers in the first inning or not. I remember the other ones because they hurt more. The ones against you hurt more than.”

Maybe seeing his team tally season-high run and home run totals allowed Snitker to maintain his sense of humor a couple of hours after seeing Ronald Acuña Jr. exiting in the fourth inning with an abdominal strain.

Acuña’s status won’t be known until he undergoes further tests in New York, where the club opens a series vs. the Yankees on Tuesday. But the hope is he’ll avoid what has become a very crowded Braves injured list.

Opening Day starter Max Fried, top prospect Cristian Pache, veteran backup outfielder Ender Inciarte, veteran starter Drew Smyly and lefty reliever Sean Newcomb were all recently placed on the injured list, which already housed top setup man Chris Martin and frontline starter Mike Soroka before this past week.

So if Acuña avoids the IL like Ozzie Albies has while nursing a sore calf the past couple of days, the Braves might consider themselves to be fortunate. They have gone 3-1 since experiencing their second four-game losing streak of the season on Wednesday. And they bounced back from Saturday’s 13-4 loss by winning this series finale by the same score.

“As far as the results [from Saturday], obviously it wasn't ideal and it wasn't what we wanted,” Heredia said through an interpreter. “But it's one of those things where you kind of put it behind you and you come out ready for the next day.”

Heredia was at the team’s alternate training site before Pache strained his left groin on Tuesday. The 30-year-old outfielder then became Atlanta’s only legitimate center-field option when Inciarte exited Friday’s game with a strained left hamstring.

Not much was expected from Heredia, who made just 10 starts while serving as an outfielder for the Mets and Pirates last year. He entered Sunday with 19 homers over 1,014 career at-bats. That equates to one homer every 53.4 at-bats.

But on this windy night at Wrigley, Heredia enjoyed the best game of his career. He drilled Hendricks’ 1-0, middle-middle fastball over the center-field wall in the first and cleared the outfield ivy again in the sixth when he belted Ryan Tepera’s 2-2 cutter.

Heredia’s big night finally gave the Braves some production from what has been a troubling position thus far. The team’s center fielders entered Sunday having hit .167 with zero homers, zero RBIs and a .472 OPS.

“It was good to see Heredia finally get on track a little bit today,” Snitker said. “We’ve been grinding to get this offensive thing going. So hopefully that is a step in the right direction.”