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Ronald Acuña Jr. has monster night as Braves defeat Phillies


Ronald Acuna has quickly become a Phillies killer. (Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Final Score: Braves 9, Phillies 5

It’s not often that you get picked off in a game and still have observers leave a game wondering if you’re the best player on the planet. But Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. was able to strike that balance Tuesday evening in a victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Yes, Acuña was picked off by Phillies reliever José Alvarado in the top of the seventh inning, but the rest of his evening was so dominant that you almost forget about what’s usually a game-defining mistake.

Acuña hit one of the most majestic home runs that Citizens Bank Park has ever seen off of Aaron Nola in the top of the third inning, a 460-foot bomb that nearly cleared the second deck in left field.

The former National League Rookie of the Year took a poor route to a ball hit to deep right field off the bat of Ronald Torreyes in the bottom of the fourth inning, only to recover in time to make a tremendous catch in right field:

The next inning, Acuña doubled into left field, and was plated by Freddie Freeman on an RBI single.

Four frames later, Acuña atoned for being picked off the top of the seventh inning, driving in two more runs, to essentially put a win on ice for the Braves.

In total, Acuña – an early National League MVP favorite – went 3-4 with a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored.

Those who waited through a 40-plus minute rain delay at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday were treated to a show displaying some of the best position-playing talent in baseball. The problem for the Phillies was that Acuña was so dominant, it made Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto both hitting home runs in the series opener against the Braves an afterthought.

Top Plays

  • After retiring Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman to begin the game, Aaron Nola again ran into first-inning troubles. With two outs, Nola walked Ozzie Albies, who was ultimately plated by Austin Riley on a double into right-center field:
  • Dansby Swanson, who typically hits very well against the Phillies, lined a ball hard with two outs, but Jean Segura was able to put it away to end the inning. Still, Nola now has a 6.92 ERA in the first inning in 2021.
  • Acuña hit one of the most no-doubt-about it home runs in the history of Citizens Bank Park in the top of the third inning, a 460-foot bomb to left field that nearly reached Harry The K’s. It’s hard to think that there have been five balls hit further at Citizens Bank Park by a right-handed hitter:
  • The Phillies got on the board in the home half of the third inning, with Nola helping his own cause. After Alec Bohm and Ronald Torreyes singled to begin the inning, Nola executed a perfect sacrifice bunt down the first base line, which allowed Bohm to score from third and Torreyes to move up to second.
  • Despite him being advanced to third base on a relatively deep fly ball off the bat of Odúbel Herrera, the Phillies weren’t able to bring Torreyes home. Jean Segura worked a seven-pitch walk with two outs, but Rhys Hoskins popped up in the infield to end the inning.
  • William Contreras increased the Braves lead with a solo shot in the top of the fourth inning, giving Atlanta a 3-1 lead:
  • Bryce Harper answered back with a solo home run of his own in the bottom of the fourth inning, his 37th career blast against the Braves:
  • After finishing off the bottom of the fourth inning with a circus-like catch in right field, Acuña doubled into left with with one out in the top of the fifth inning. Freeman followed that up with a single into center field. Braves third base coach Ron Washington elected to test Herrera’s arm in center field, and that gamble paid off with Acuña scoring without a throw after Herrera whiffed on an attempt to come up throwing to home.
  • Luke Williams made his major league debut in the bottom of the fifth, pinch hitting for Nola. Williams laid down a bunt in his first major league at-bat, one that he probably would have beat out regardless of whether the throw was good or not. That said, the throw from Smyly was especially awful, going wide of Freeman at first and allowing Williams to advance all the way to third base:
  • Two batters later, Segura brought Williams home on a double into deep left-center field. The Phillies weren’t able to pull even in the fifth, though. Segura, who advanced to third on a passed ball, was stranded on a Hoskins strikeout and Harper flyout.
  • However, after a clean inning from Archie Bradley in the bottom of the sixth inning, Realmuto led off with a 344-foot home run to right field, his second opposite-field home run in as many games:
  • The Phillies weren’t done there. Bohm and Torreyes had consecutive singles into right field, before Brad Miller, pinch hitting for Bradley, singled into center to plate Bohm. This gave the Phillies their first lead of the night.
  • Despite scoring two runs to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Phillies failed to put up a crooked number when they had the chance. Hoskins came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, and ended the inning by popping up in foul territory between third base and left field.
  • In the top of the seventh, the Phillies once again failed to put the game out of reach, despite having an opportunity to do so. With Andrew McCutchen on first base and Harper on third, Bohm grounded into a fielder’s choice. Torreyes failed to advance Harper the extra 90-feet as well, flying out to right field to end the threat.
  • Atlanta made the Phillies pay for failing to put the game away, as Riley homered off of Connor Brogdon in the top of the eighth inning, tying the game at five:
  • The Braves didn’t let up after the home run, knocking Brogdon out after a walk and an infield single that kicked off of Hoskins’ glove at first. Sam Coonrod came in to replace Brogdon, and allowed the Braves to retake the lead on a Contreras RBI single. Coonrod then induced a ground ball back to the mound off of the bat of Guillermo Heredia, but threw the ball into center field as he attempted to turn a double play, allowing a seventh run to score for Atlanta. To top things off, Acuña singled into left field with runners on second and third, bringing home two more runs for the Braves:

Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance

  • Drew Smyly – once a Phillie – was given a one-year/$11 million deal by the Braves this offseason, a pact that looks rather disastrous currently. After giving up three runs (two of which were earned) over 4 1/3 innings, Smyly now has a 5.82 ERA in 2021. That’s not very Cliff Lee-like.
  • Aaron Nola continued what’s been a season very similar to his 2019 campaign Tuesday. Nola hasn’t been a bad pitcher when compared to the rest of the league, but he’s failed to live up to the high standard that he set for himself in both 2018 and 2020. The first inning continues to plague Nola, but he never looked sharp even after that tonight. Nola, who turned 28 last weekend, allowed seven hits and four runs over five frames against the Braves. His ERA now sits at 4.06 after 13 starts, which is actually quite a bit lower than where he was after 13 starts in 2019, when he had a 4.63 ERA.

Ticket IQ Next Game

  • Wednesday, June 9 vs. Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park
  • 7:05 p.m. ET
  • TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
  • Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP

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