Acuña hits No. 20, shines in field in G2 win

June 22nd, 2021

Mets fans, can’t hear you.

As Acuña rounded second base on his fifth-inning home run, which lifted the Braves to a 1-0 win and a split of Monday’s straight doubleheader with the Mets, he lifted his right hand to his ear. After a game and a half of heckling, the home crowd had little to say.

“I feel like I’m getting booed every time I go out there and I’m getting booed on the field,” Acuña said through a translator. “So in my mind I think to myself, ‘OK, I’m gonna wait until I do something and I’m gonna say something.’

“As soon as I hit it out, I didn’t hear anything. It got pretty quiet, so as soon as I start rounding the bases, I just motioned like this [hand to ear] because no one was saying anything. It got real quiet after that.”

Acuña’s actions have been impressively -- and historically -- loud the past two games: He became the second player in the Modern Era to hit solo shots in 1-0 wins on consecutive days, joining Joe Panik (March 29-30, 2018). Acuña also dazzled in the field, mowing down Pete Alonso at third base in the second inning when the game was still knotted at 0-0.

After taking a 4-2 defeat in Game 1, the Braves needed that kind of performance from their superstar right fielder.

“Oh my gosh. You’re seeing all the tools, that’s for sure,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I mean, he amazes me. … That right there might be one of the hardest-hit balls I’ve ever seen in my life, that homer. And that [outfield assist], I’ve said this before, he’s a weapon in right field. He’s a weapon when you challenge him.”

Indeed, Acuña lit up the radar gun with both show-stopping plays. His fourth outfield assist of the season came on a 97.3 mph throw, his second-hardest throw of the season (and hardest on an assist). The home run, his 20th, left his bat at 115.7 mph -- the Braves’ third hardest-hit homer since 2015 (behind two other Acuña bombs).

As for his body-language banter with the Mets crowd? Well, we can’t exactly quantify that. But it’s clear the 23-year-old is having plenty of fun.

“It’s like he’s in the backyard every night,” Snitker said. “It’s no stress, nothing. He’s just in the backyard playing ball. He likes playing ball. And I would, too. If I had his skill set, I’d love to be out there every day.”

Added Acuña, “That’s how I’ve always been. I’m always gonna go out, try to enjoy myself and have fun. It’s the big leagues, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna go out and not have fun.”

Anderson, Muller show out for ’16 Draft class

Five years ago to the month, the Braves invested highly in a pair of prep arms during the 2016 MLB Draft. On Monday, , the third-overall pick that year, and , the Braves’ second-round selection, both went to work in successful fashion.

Muller opened, in his first MLB start, with four strong innings of one-hit ball in Game 1. Anderson followed with 5 1/3 scoreless frames and a win.

Atlanta committed $6.5 million in combined signing bonuses between Anderson and Muller, and the twin bill gave a nice glimpse of two 23-year-olds the Braves hope are in their rotation for years to come. Anderson isn’t nearly as green as Muller, mind you, as he now has 20 MLB starts to his name.

“I love watching guys that I played with and kind of enjoy it,” Anderson said. “I try to give him some advice from what little experience I have.”

Most outings have gone well for Anderson, who finished tied for seventh in National League Rookie of the Year voting last season despite only pitching 32 1/3 innings. He’d struggled entering Monday, with a 5.59 ERA in four prior games, but the Rexford, N.Y., native spun a bounce-back start in his home state.

And of course, rough patches are natural at baseball’s highest level. As Muller inevitably goes through his own, his fellow Class of ‘16 draftee can help guide him.

“We’ve kind of experienced the same things,” Anderson said. “The way I was feeling after my first couple outings [compares] to the way that he said he was feeling today. But yeah, it’s awesome to have him here.”