Lets just get it out of the way so we can move on. The Atlanta Braves suffered a painful 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday night. Ronald Acuña Jr. had a big game going 3-for-4 at the plate with a two-run home run in the ninth inning and made a four-star catch in center field, yet the conversation after the game centered once again on his lack of hustle out of the box on a ball that caromed off the right field wall. Acuña carried his bat halfway down the line before kicking it into high gear but was forced to stop at first with a single.
If you think that is the reason that the Braves lost Thursday night then you need to rethink it because it wasn’t. There were no guarantees that Atlanta would have scored had Acuña reached second in the inning. Andrew Miller hit Freddie Freeman before getting Josh Donaldson to line into a double play to end the inning. If you need a place to direct your ire, then it should fall on the bullpen that surrendered six runs over the final two innings. The Braves had Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas on the ropes early but were only able to push across one run.
Now with that said, that doesn’t absolve Acuña completely in this sense. He has been regarded as one of the best players in baseball on more than one occasion. He is the most talented player on young and talented team. With that comes expectation and responsibility. What happened in Game 1 is something that simply can’t happen. It shouldn’t happen in the regular season and it is something that can’t happen in the postseason when everything is magnified about 1000 percent. The media is going to be the media. Talk radio is going to do talk radio things, but Acuña’s biggest responsibility is to those other players in the clubhouse and that is why he can’t let this happen. Brian Snitker was clearly not happy having to answer questions about the incident after the game and neither was Freddie Freeman. They shouldn’t have to either.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game for Atlanta wasn’t even a play at all. Max Fried tossed a scoreless seventh but with four straight right-handed hitters due in the eighth, Snitker elected to go to right-hander Chris Martin. Martin was then forced to exit before throwing a pitch after he felt soreness in his oblique muscle while warming up. Luke Jackson came in and promptly served up a monstrous home run to Paul Goldschmidt that cut Atlanta’s lead to one. Mark Melancon was eventually pressed into service in the eighth and the Braves only escaped the inning with the game tied because of a strong throw by Adam Duvall that nailed Kolton Wong at the plate to end the inning. Martin is likely done for the rest of the postseason and the Braves will be forced to replace him on the roster Friday.
If you need to be reminded of how resilient this team is, then look no further than the ninth when they scored three times after falling behind 7-6. They will face a tall order in Game 2 in Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty but having watched this team all season, I will be surprised if they don’t come out on Friday ready to play.
Talking Chop Podcast Game 1 Recap
Brad and Eric break down the Game 1 loss and have thoughts on the team’s bullpen management in Game 1 and the Acuña controversy.
More Braves news and thoughts
- Cardinals’ pitcher Carlos Martinez took exception with how Acuña admired his home run in the ninth.
“I wanted him to respect the game and respect me as a veteran player,” Martínez said through team translator Carlos Villoria. “That’s it. Just play the game.”
- The Athletic’s Eno Sarris delivers three quick thoughts on Game 1 including exit velocity, Acuña and St. Louis’ small ball approach.
- Major League Baseball announced game times for the remainder of the series for the Braves and the Cardinals. Game 3 on Sunday is scheduled for a 4:10 start. Monday’s Game 4 will begin at either 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. depending on what happens in the Dodgers/Nationals series. Game 5 on Wednesday will either be a 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. start.
- Here is something that a lot of Braves fans will likely need to read after Game 1. The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh on how Ronald Acuña Jr, Ozzie Albies and others saved Atlanta’s rebuild.
- Mike Foltynewicz will get the start in Game 2 on Friday and the Braves will need him to be great. Foltynewicz’s season has been full of twists and turns. An injury in spring training set him back and early season struggles landed him back at Gwinnett. However, he has pitched well since his return and once again looks like a reliable option. The AJC’s Tim Tucker and FanGraphs’ Tony Wolfe examine his season.
- Major League Baseball announced the finalists for the 2019 Hank Aaron Award on Thursday. The award is given annually to the most outstanding offensive player in each league. Freddie Freeman was announced as Atlanta’s finalist. Fans can vote for the winner in each league between now and Wednesday.
- Talking Chop’s Gaurav Vedak was lucky enough to talk with former Braves great Andruw Jones on his career and what he is up to these days.
- The Dodgers got a strong performance from Walker Buehler while Max Muncy plated three runs in a 6-0 win over the Nationals.
- The Nationals announced on Thursday that Stephen Strasburg will get the start in Game 2 on Friday. Strasburg made his first career relief appearance in the Wild Card game throwing three scoreless frames and 34 pitches.
- The New York Yankees have named James Paxton as their starter in Game 1 of the ALDS. Masahiro Tanaka will go in Game 2 with Luis Severino scheduled to start Game 3 in Minnesota. One pitcher that won’t be taking the mound for New York is veteran CC Sabathia who was left off the team’s ALDS roster.
- The Twins will go with right-hander José Berríos in Game 1 opposite of Paxton. However, manager Rocco Baldelli has yet to announce his pitching plans for the remainder of the series.
- Our own Demetrius Bell writing for SBNation.com on how the Tampa Bay Rays are winning with innovation and just defeated the Oakland A’s who were once the poster child for MLB’s analytics movement.
- The New York Mets relieved manager Mickey Callaway of his duties Thursday. The Mets put together a second half push but dug themselves too big of a hole early in the season and it wasn’t enough to save Callaway’s job. The Mets will also reportedly part ways with Callaway’s bench coach Jim Riggleman. GM Brodie Van Wagenen met with the media to discuss the moves and offered up that he expects closer Edwin Diaz and starter Noah Syndergaard to be on his team’s roster when the 2020 season begins. Both players saw their names mentioned in trade rumors and the deadline.
- As expected, the Pirates announced that pitching coach Ray Searage won’t return next season. The team also parted ways with bench coach Tom Prince.
- Finally, Matt Kemp is hoping to return for his 15th season in the majors in 2020. Kemp was released by the Reds in early May. He later signed on with the Mets on a minor league deal but made only eight appearances at Triple-A before he was released.