The most important part? The Braves won – finally getting a win over a still-scuffling Reds club. But there’s several observations to be made about Acuña’s first day.
I just went to Google-up Acuña’s name so that I could get a “ñ” to copy for a proper spelling, and found the following from Wikipedia (with emphasis added):
"“Ronald José Acuña Blanco Jr. is a Venezuelan professional baseball outfielder for the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball.“"
As good as that sounds to repeat, I’ll bet that this phrase continues to be even better for him, his friends, and his family. He’s the youngest in the majors now – besting Ozzie Albies by roughly 11 months – and the 19,226th player in major league history.
Easily predictably, there were a flurry of tweets as the game ended by a bunch of people on twitter thinking they were clever in pointing out that the Braves were undefeated in the Acuña Era.
A few people, however, went in a different direction. This guy did the most:
Of course, if there were actually 13,000+ people in that stadium, then you were probably counting all of the media, ushers, concessionaires, security, support staff, etc. Actual Reds’ fans were hard to come by, but we won’t quibble: the numbers are pretty surprising as they are.
I’ll get to the game in a moment, but don’t miss this – the constitution of the Atlanta Braves’ team has changed.
Once José Bautista joins the club, the starting lineup will often feature a majority group of non-US players – as many as six of them.
- Albies – Curaçao
- Bautista – Dominican Republic
- Acuña – Venezuela
- Inciarte – Acuña
- Carlos Perez – Venezuela
- if Teheran is pitching: Colombia
- if Gohara is pitching: Brazil
If you wish to extend your look at non-US players, you could look toward Peter Moylan (Australia) or the soon-to-arrive Mike Soroka (Canada). Freddie Freeman was US-born, but his Canadian heritage is well-known.
The notable exception – which has been noted by many – is the lack of African-American players. The Braves currently have just one on their entire 40-man roster: Sam Freeman.
Last Night’s Game
If you replayed that contest a dozen times, I’m almost certain there would be a dozen different outcomes. The first inning alone was a nail-biter for both sides… that it ended with a 1-0 score was a shockingly low outcome.
The Braves had runners on first and second with one out and already a 1-0 lead with Johan Camargo and Acuña coming up. Camargo looked at strike three, but then Acuña went after the first ML pitch he saw… and nearly pulled it off.
Just how close was that to a 3-run homer?
- Off the bat, he probably missed it by less than a millimeter.
- Off the glove… well, it was caught, but only barely.
Had Billy Hamilton been roaming center field, then he would have camped under that ball’s landing spot, collected firewood, started a fire, and then started roasting marshmallows before the ball arrived. Okay – maybe an exaggeration since Acuña hit it.
However, this was Scott Schebler out there, who had to run all-out to get to the Right-center warning track, and almost didn’t make it. Another foot and that’s possibly a 2-run triple. Another 4 or 5 feet and it’s a 3-run homer.
Conversely, there was the bottom of the 1st. Matt Wisler gave up 3 singles on 8 pitches and somehow didn’t give up a run on that 3rd one… or for the rest of the inning.
A flyout to CF that was still shallow enough to scare Jesse Winker at third base from trying to score, then a double play grounder and he was out of the jam almost as quickly (9 pitches) as it took to get him in it in the first place.
That got through the scary parts – mostly – and it’s just a bit odd to look at a 5-4 game that could easily have been something like 5-4 after the first inning.
On Acuña’s Day
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I’m not going to beat him up for going after first pitches in each of his 1st two AB’s… especially since both balls were driven hard (to the opposite field, no less) with a fair chance of leaving the park.
He followed that with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a worm-killer single. In that third AB, Acuña worked a full count before taking a third strike.
The single came on a 1-2 count with him seeming to protect the plate – guiding one up the middle. That hit led to what became the winning run, thanks to a bolt from 1st to 3rd on a routine single to left field.
This video both illustrates and describes that play well, and also underlines something the Braves are trying to do more: put the pressure on the defense…
The last AB strikeout was unfortunate, as there was 1 out with 2 runners in scoring position ahead of him, so virtually any contact would have helped, but that was a 3-pitch AB.
Still: if that was just his first game, I am so looking forward to many, many more.
Y’all watch out today… C.B. Bucknor is behind the plate. Literally anything can happen with the ‘9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ of baseball umpires: the most overturned adjudicators.