Acuna hits first homer, leads Braves to win
Power, speed on display as top prospect has 3-hit game
CINCINNATI -- Ronald Acuna Jr. wowed with his power and impressed with the speed he displayed as he provided a glimpse of his five-tool talents while leading the Braves to a 7-4 win over the Reds on Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
Acuna notched his first career home run in impressive fashion to begin the second inning and then capped a three-hit performance with the game-winning bloop double he produced as the Braves regained the lead in the eighth and held on to split this four-game series.
"It's always good to get that first homer," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He clocked that ball. But he just shows you what he brings. That set of legs is going to be really valuable for us, the way he can run around and how athletic he is. He definitely makes our club better."
After Freddie Freeman recorded the last of his three doubles to begin the decisive eighth, Acuna got jammed on Wandy Peralta's first-pitch fastball, but still managed to direct it into no-man's land in shallow right field for a two-out RBI double. The 20-year-old phenom raced home when Dansby Swanson followed with a single.
• Albies continues torrid hitting with 8th homer
"The real good ones make an immediate impact," Snitker said. "This kid has skills. He's an asset for us, whether he's batting, in the field or on the bases. It's nice to have him."
Acuna notched his first career hit during Wednesday's Major League debut and then experienced the thrill of his first homer when he opened Thursday's second inning by drilling Homer Bailey's 3-1 slider a projected 416 feet into the second deck located beyond the left-field seats. The majestic solo shot came in what was just the sixth career plate appearance for the young outfielder, who ranks as baseball's second-best prospect per MLB Pipeline.
"It was truly a unique moment," Acuna said through an interpreter. "I really enjoyed being able to get my first home run in the big leagues. It was a once in a lifetime experience."
With the addition of Acuna, the Braves have enhanced the opportunities to produce the youthul, energetic brand of baseball that has been displayed as Swanson and 21-year-old Ozzie Albies have spent the season's first two months proving to be consistent offensive assets.
• Ball hits directly off the knob of Suzuki's bat
Albies extended his power surge with the two-run homer he hit off Bailey in the fifth inning. The Braves second baseman is tied for the Major League lead with eight home runs. His ninth-inning RBI double increased his league-leading extra-base total to 19, a mark that had never previously been reached by the end of April by any Braves player.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bouncing back: Before issuing consecutive four-pitch walks to Phil Gosselin and Billy Hamilton with one out in the fifth, Sean Newcomb had retired 13 of 17 and encountered just one three-ball count. The free passes proved costly when he grooved a fastball that Joey Votto barrelled for a game-tying three-run homer in the fifth. But the Braves' southpaw regrouped and finished with a perfect sixth.
"I think it boils down to that Votto at-bat," Newcomb said. "Obviously, I missed with one pitch. Other than that, I felt I was in control. I just chalk it up to making a bad pitch to a great hitter."
Early advantage: Freeman started the first three-double game of his career with the first-inning two-bagger he sent down the right-field line. Nick Markakis followed with two-out single for the Braves, who have produced a MLB-best .318 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Acuna (20 years, 129 days) and Albies (21 years, 109 days) both homered Thursday. According to MLB.com's Andrew Simon, the last time a pair of teammates both Albies' age or younger homered in the same game was on Sept. 23, 1978. Coincidentally, that instance also featured the Braves (Bob Horner, Glenn Hubbard) accomplishing the feat against the Reds.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Acuna got from home plate to first base at a pace of 30.4 feet per second when he recorded an infield single in the sixth. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton leads the Majors with an average sprint speed of 30.5 feet per second.
HE SAID IT
"Atlanta is really playing good. They're doing a great job. I think they're really a force -- four or five guys in the middle of that lineup -- when they come up, we just didn't have any answers for them." -- Reds manager Jim Riggleman
Julio Teheran will make his third start of the young season against the Phillies when the Braves open a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Teheran's nine strikeouts against the Phillies on April 16 stands as his highest total since 2016. He has a 1.42 ERA over his past three starts. Aaron Nola will start for the Phillies.