Acuña hit the second-longest home run tracked in the Majors this year and Anderson provided his second straight scoreless effort as the Braves claimed a 5-0 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night at Truist Park.
After helping the Braves win a second straight game since Dansby Swanson reacted to Sunday’s miserable doubleheader by burning sage, Acuña and Anderson showered each other with praise.
“His last two outings have been excellent,” Acuña said through a translator. “He’s a tremendous pitcher. I’m not surprised at all. He’s a superstar in my opinion.”
Anderson posted a 1.95 ERA over six regular-season starts and worked 17 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in last year’s postseason before finally surrendering a run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. So, he’s not an obscure rookie.
But even those who have followed his career closely might have been surprised to learn what he accomplished after limiting the Cubs to one hit over seven scoreless innings.
Anderson now stands as the only pitcher of the live ball era (since 1920) who within his first 11 career appearances has produced three starts during which one hit or less has been allowed over at least six innings.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Anderson said. “To be able to come up and pitch for this team is special with the guys we have. You saw what Acuña did tonight with that home run. There aren’t too many guys in the league that can do that.”
Acuña’s latest jaw-dropping feat occurred when he crushed a fifth-inning solo homer that came off the bat at 111.9 mph and traveled a projected 481 feet, making it the second-longest homer tracked by Statcast this season.
White Sox rookie Yermin Mercedes’ 485-foot homer against the Royals on April 8 stands as the longest homer hit in the Majors this season.
“It just amazes me how that ball comes off the bat like that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been around anybody that I’ve witnessed that it explodes off the bat like it does for that guy. I mean, it’s stupid.”
With this monstrous shot off Cubs right-hander Trevor Williams, Acuña now has eight homers, which ties him with the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins for the most in the Majors. Not bad, considering this was the Braves outfielder’s first homer since April 15.
Acuña hit .419 with a 1.373 OPS through the 16 games he played before suffering a mild abdominal strain on April 18. He fortunately only missed last week’s two-game series at Yankee Stadium. But he entered Tuesday 0-for-10 in the four games he had played since returning to Atlanta’s lineup.
“I’ve been here,” Acuña said. “I didn’t go anywhere.”
Acuña’s solo homer provided a lead for Anderson, who recorded eight strikeouts with the assistance of a changeup that drew rave reviews from Cubs manager David Ross, who was impressed with the 22-year-old hurler’s ability to successfully and confidently throw the pitch right-on-right.
Anderson got a called strike on eight of the 21 curveballs he threw and the Cubs whiffed on seven of 14 swings against his changeup.
But while Anderson might have been the night’s most overall dominant performer, the moment of the night belonged to Acuña, who had no trouble centering Trevor Williams’ 92.7 mph fastball in the fifth.
“Whenever you can hit a home run like that, it feels amazing,” Acuña said. “I guess I truly don’t concern myself with how far it goes out or how hard I hit it.”
That’s easy to say for a guy who hits home runs farther than nearly everybody else who has ever picked up a baseball bat.
The only home run Acuña has ever hit further than his most recent was the 495-foot blast he recorded against the Red Sox on Sept. 25, 2020. That also stands as the longest homer hit by any Braves player dating back to when Statcast began tracking this data in 2015.
Dating back to the start of 2020, Acuña is the only Major Leaguer with more than one 480-foot homer. The only other players to record one homer that traveled at least this distance are Mercedes, Alex Dickerson, Luis Robert and Giancarlo Stanton.
“It’s special,” Anderson said. “It’s a different sound. It’s something I’ve seen a few times now. It’s awesome. He seems to thrive in that big moment. That kind of speaks to the kind of player he is.”