NEW YORK -- Braves phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. walked away from the biggest moment of his young career as coolly as he approached it, providing further proof he is special and deservedly considered one of the best prospects in baseball over the past two decades.Playing in front of a raucous
NEW YORK -- Braves phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. walked away from the biggest moment of his young career as coolly as he approached it, providing further proof he is special and deservedly considered one of the best prospects in baseball over the past two decades.
Playing in front of a raucous packed house during his first visit to Yankee Stadium on Monday night, Acuna sneaked an opposite-field home run through Aaron Judge's glove and over the right-center-field wall to give the Braves a 5-3, 11-inning win over the Yankees.
"Thank God, I've never really felt nervous in those situations," Acuna said through an interpreter. "I think my adrenaline always helps me deal with the nerves. I understand anyone can get nervous in that situation. But that's never really the case for me."
Just 20 years old and 33 games into a highly promising career, Acuna has consistently shown the five-tool skills that earned him the honor of being named MLB Pipeline's top prospect earlier this year. But he showed veteran poise as he ignored any pressure he seemingly should have felt and stayed back on Player Page for David Robertson's 1-2 curveball that hit Judge's glove and caromed over the wall.
"Guys like [Acuna] and [Ozzie Albies], when they're batting, you don't want to go to the bathroom or get a beer because they might do something special," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I feel good every time Ronnie goes up there."
Acuna has an .827 OPS through 148 career plate appearances and has gone 6-for-18 with two doubles and two homers since returning Friday from a monthlong DL stint (mild sprain of his left anterior cruciate ligament). <p.> Acuna's seventh homer proved decisive for the Braves, who own the National League's best record courtesy of four straight wins to begin a challenging road trip. Atlanta swept the Cardinals this past weekend before opening this three-game set against the Yankees, who entered with the American League's best winning percentage. </p.>
"It's good for our young guys to come in to a place like this against a team like this, that's as good as they and play well," Snitker said.
Veteran starter Anibal Sanchez limited the Yankees to three runs over six innings, and catcher Kurt Suzuki won an 11-pitch battle to account for one of the three consecutive doubles notched against Jonathan Loaisiga during a two-run fourth. But many of the key moments were produced by this surprising team's fearless young core.
Before A.J. Minter closed the door with a scoreless 11th inning, rookie reliever Jesse Biddle completed two scoreless innings by escaping a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the 10th. The recently maligned Braves bullpen delivered five scoreless innings and set the stage for Acuna, who also delivered the third of those doubles in the fourth.
"Everything [Acuna] has done so far is amazing," Snitker said. "He's like a veteran at this level."
So, when was the last time Acuna felt nervous on a baseball field?
"I guess never, to be honest, because when I go out on the field, I'm looking to have fun," Acuna said. "I don't feel those nerves."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bases-loaded escapes: Sanchez limited the Yankees to a sacrifice fly after they loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. Defensive positioning led to a double play that aided Sam Freeman, who worked a scoreless seventh despite issuing two walks and recording just four strikes of his 15 pitches. Dan Winkler left runners at the corners when he struck out Neil Walker to end the eighth.
But the most impressive escape belonged to Biddle, who was not fazed when Aaron Hicks' 10th-inning double bounced into the stands along the right-field line. The Braves lefty said once he knew Didi Gregorius had to stop at third, he was determined to keep him there. Biddle did, by intentionally walking Miguel Andujar before recording consecutive strikeouts of Greg Bird and Austin Romine.
"I wasn't thinking a whole lot," Biddle said. "I think that is when I get myself into trouble. These fans are pretty loud. I was just doing my best to quiet them down."
Both teams took advantage of Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field.
Acuna's go-ahead homer traveled a projected 361 feet, per Statcast™. None of his previous six career homers had been projected at less than 394 feet.
Judge's first-inning homer traveled a projected 340 feet, the second-shortest recorded distance for any of his 79 home runs. This also would have stood as the shortest homer hit by a Braves player this season.
• Johan Camargo's game-tying home run in the third inning traveled a projected 371 feet over the right-center-field wall. This was the third-shortest distance recorded for any of his 12 career home runs.
HE SAID IT
"We have a lot of young guys. We might not have the experience other teams have in their bullpen, but we have some incredible arms. It's just a matter of time before we put it together. When we have success like tonight, it's not surprising to us." -- Biddle
"I felt it hit my glove. It didn't go in, they got two runs. It was a tough play. I wanted to make that play for D-Rob. I didn't come through. That's what it always comes down to when you lose, the missed opportunities. For us, we had runners in scoring position. Even myself, I had quite a few chances with runners on base and I didn't come through." -- Judge
Sean Newcomb will have one last chance to pad his All-Star credentials when the Braves resume their three-game series against the Yankees on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Newcomb has a 2.07 ERA over his past 11 starts and he has been charged with three earned runs or fewer in 13 of 16 starts. But as he preps for the Yankees' potent offense, it's worth noting two of his worst outings have occurred against the Dodgers and Red Sox. New York will counter with Domingo German, who has a 5.88 ERA in nine starts.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.