Acuna's bat-flipping HR helps chase Urena

Outfielder tallies three hits, three RBIs in victory; Soroka dominates again

June 8th, 2019

MIAMI -- As Ronald Acuna Jr. jogged down the first-base line following his solo shot in Friday night’s 7-1 win over the Marlins, he held onto his bat before flipping it and pointing to the Braves' dugout at Marlins Park.

That’s likely because Acuna’s 13th homer of the season came against a familiar foe: right-hander Jose Urena, whose 97 mph two-seam fastball was sent over the right-center-field wall. According to Statcast, Acuna's fourth-inning blast went a projected 398 feet, with an exit velocity of 106.1 mph.

“No, I really didn’t give it too much thought, to be honest," Acuna said of his celebration, via an interpreter. "You have to take everything game by game, but obviously you kind of hope for the opportunity.”

Was it Acuna's favorite bat flip?

“Not yet. I feel like I have a better one lined up,” Acuna quipped.

Acuna and Urena’s well-chronicled history dates back to last August, when Urena plunked Acuna on the left elbow with a first-pitch fastball to open a start at SunTrust Park. Acuna had gone deep eight times over his past eight games, and he was vying for a leadoff homer for the fourth straight contest. The benches would clear twice before Urena was ejected.

The Braves did not retaliate in that game, but on May 3, right-hander Kevin Gausman threw behind Urena in his first plate appearance against Atlanta since the incident.

Though Acuna entered Friday with a .333/.411/.645 slash line and eight homers in 24 career games against the Marlins, he didn’t have much success versus Urena. In 13 plate appearances -- his most against any Major League pitcher -- Acuna had just two hits, with two walks and four strikeouts.

That changed in Friday’s rout. Acuna's single drove in a run in the second for his 100th career RBI, and his homer in the fourth helped chase Urena after six runs and 11 hits. Acuna also knocked an RBI single in the fifth off lefty Wei-Yin Chen.

“It’s just good seeing him squaring those balls up," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "You know, he’d been kind of struggling for a while, last few days he's kind of getting his hits, and just to see him barrel up some balls today was really encouraging.”

Soroka continues to deal

The offense proved to be more than enough support for right-hander , who allowed one run on three hits in a career-high eight-plus innings for his seventh consecutive victory.

Snitker decided to let Soroka start the ninth at 92 pitches with a chance at his first complete game in just his 15th big league start. After Soroka walked leadoff batter Curtis Granderson on seven pitches, righty Dan Winkler took over.

“That's awesome. Just to have the confidence, just to be able to look over and see that, you know, I'm still the guy in that situation, and to be able to go out there and understand what that feels like, to get the last few outs of the game," Soroka said. "Obviously, not the result I was looking for, but it's amazing to have that confidence from your manager.”

Of his 99 pitches, Soroka threw 54 two-seamers and 15 four-seamers, mixing in his other offerings as the game progressed. In the sixth inning, for example, he turned to his changeup and slider three times apiece.

Overall, Soroka induced 13 ground outs and permitted multiple runners on base just once, in the fifth inning.

"Later on, he started breaking out the changeup a little bit, slider was really good and the ball was really sinking, moving," Snitker said. "Then it was just kind of, you know, he's in a good little groove there. It looked like it's one of them where he probably could have pitched all night.”

With an inherited runner scoring in the ninth, Soroka trails Dodgers southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu 1.35 to 1.38 for the National League ERA lead.

“It’s like I said before, nothing he does surprises me," Acuna said. "He’s a tremendous pitcher, and obviously we had to go through the Minor League system together, so I was able to watch him as he continued to develop. So nothing surprises me at this point."