Acuña belts 450-foot HR -- then falls down
ATLANTA -- As Ronald Acuña Jr. progresses through his career, he may do many things seldom seen throughout baseball’s rich history.
Yep, Acuña managed to do this when he hit his first home run of the season during the fourth inning of a 6-3 loss to the Brewers on Friday night at Truist Park. The Braves outfielder lost balance while completing his mighty swing, fell across the plate and found himself sitting in the batter’s box as the ball landed in the center-field seats.
“I knew I got all of it,” Acuña said through an interpreter. “I was just surprised because nothing like this has ever happened.”
While this was certainly funny, the laughter didn’t begin until it was clear Acuña hadn’t injured himself. This was just the seventh game he has played since tearing his right ACL on July 10. So, for a brief second, this homer off Eric Lauer created some gasps.
“I didn’t see [him fall],” Braves right-handed pitcher Spencer Strider said. “In the moment, I was watching the ball. I saw a replay of it and I was kind of confused. I may have to go back and see the whole context.”
Was Acuña initially concerned?
“I wasn’t scared,” Acuña said. “It’s happened to me a couple times with some groundouts.”
Acuña’s 450-foot home run came off the bat at 111.7 mph per Statcast. This was just the second extra-base hit since being activated from the injured list on April 28. He has shown some signs of rust while going 6-for-29 with 13 strikeouts. But his displays of speed and power have proven he is healthy and ready to again be one of the game’s elite players.
“It’s just getting better and better,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “When he started getting consistent at-bats, you kind of figured it would be like that.”
Like Strider, Snitker didn’t see Acuña fall. He too was busy admiring the young superstar’s latest majestic blast.
According to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, Acuña has now hit 32 homers that have had an exit velocity of 110 mph or higher. That’s 24 more than any other Braves player since Statcast began tracking this data in 2015.
The 24-year-old outfielder, who debuted in 2018, also has 12 homers that have traveled at least 450 feet. That’s six more than any other Braves player during the Statcast era.
Acuña’s unique homer served as one of the few highlights as the Braves fell four games below .500 and seven games behind the first-place Mets in the National League East.
But now that Acuña is back, they are hoping to find what has been an elusive groove through the season’s first few weeks. The young outfielder’s presence provides a powerful catalyst at the top of the lineup. When he’s not being used as the designated hitter, the outfield defense is not the liability it has been much of this season.
Still, there’s some need to be patient with Acuña as he reintroduces himself to the speed of the game and challenges of playing on a daily basis. He hasn’t provided consistent production yet. But he’s shown glimpses of his great tools.
During Monday night’s win over the Mets, Acuña recorded an infield single while getting down the line at 30.5 ft./sec., the fastest time recorded by a Braves player this year.
One night later, he registered a double with a 116.6 mph exit velocity, the fourth-hardest hit ball of his career.
Now, with his first home run under his belt, Acuña seems closer to getting back to being himself, which has been one of the best players the game has ever seen.
“I feel good thankfully and I feel very healthy,” Acuña said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Despite missing half of last year, Acuña stands with Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones as the only players to hit at least 100 homers and record at least 75 steals at 23 or younger.
But he might forever stand as the only player to celebrate a 450-foot homer from his rear.