'It's over': Acuña hits blast, lets Braves know

May 20th, 2021

ATLANTA -- Ronald Acuña Jr.’s confident personality enhances the entertainment he is capable of instantly providing, like he did when he drilled his first career walk-off home run to give the Braves a 5-4 win over the Mets on Wednesday night at Truist Park.

“To be honest, any time one of those situations comes up, I tell whoever is listening, ‘It’s over, I’m going to end it here,’” Acuña said through an interpreter. “I say it every time regardless of the result. Thankfully, tonight it worked out. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was out.”

Acuña took a few steps out of the box, turned to his team’s first-base dugout and said, “It’s over” while gesturing to his teammates.

“It’s a feeling you just can’t describe,” Acuña said. “It’s incredible just to walk it off with the other team jogging off the field. But like I previously said, the most important thing is we won the game as a team.”

Acuña gave the Braves exactly what they needed when he drilled Jacob Barnes’ first pitch of the ninth inning into Atlanta’s bullpen in right-center field. The 23-year-old superstar’s home run prevented the Braves from being swept by the first-place Mets and from having to dwell on all that went wrong during the late innings.

“If there was ever a timely win, this was probably it,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “That was a good one, because we kept kind of shooting ourselves in the foot. So it was nice to come away with a win.”

Before Acuña hit his National League-leading 13th homer, the Braves had ridden a wave of emotions. Charlie Morton delivered his best start of the season, allowing one run while totaling just 79 pitches over six innings. The 37-year-old also provided an RBI single during Atlanta’s three-run fifth. But when the Braves loaded the bases in the sixth, he was lifted in favor of pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval, who lined out to third base.

“Charlie gave us six innings and he had gone four-plus the other day,” Snitker said. “It was a really good six innings. I said if we get a chance, I’m going to take a kill-shot with Pablo right here. I knew I was going to get him a right-handed bat and he was 10 inches from clearing the bases.”  

Had the Braves lost, Snitker would have also been fielding critiques of A.J. Minter, who recorded two quick outs in the seventh and then unraveled after making an errant throw to first base. The Mets tallied three runs in the frame and held a lead until Austin Riley notched his second double of the night and scored on William Contreras’ game-tying single in the eighth.

Dansby Swanson enjoyed a two-hit night, but he quieted the eighth-inning threat when he unsuccessfully attempted to steal third base with one out and Acuña on deck. Snitker acknowledged it wasn’t the wisest decision, but he credited his shortstop’s aggressive attempt.

“Guys are wanting to make plays and guys are wanting to do good for the club,” Snitker said. “When you run right there, you need to make sure you’re going to be safe. But I can’t fault the kid for wanting to make something happen there.”

Swanson’s decision ultimately set the stage for Acuña, who has hit just .173 with five homers and a .687 OPS over the 22 games he has played since missing a few days in April with a mild abdominal strain.

Asked if he was anticipating a walk-off home run, Snitker said, “I said to myself, he’s due right here.”