Ronald Acuña Jr. has been having what appears to be a pretty slow spring training on the surface on things. With that being said, he’s definitely shown flashes of the Acuña that we expect to see once the games begin to count and we got a flash of lightning today with the home run he hit in today’s Braves loss against the Red Sox.
After a calamitous top half of the third inning resulted in the Braves being down 5-0 to Boston, Acuña came up to the plate with nobody on and two out already in the inning. It would’ve been understandable to just write that off as a bad inning all around for the Braves, but it’s always a bad idea to turn away from Acuña at any given moment in any given game. Sure enough, Garrett Richards ran up a 3-0 count on the dynamic outfielder and Acuña took his golden chance and clubbed a moonshot that eventually landed on the berm beyond the left field fence.
Ronald Acuña Jr. got the greenlight on a 3-0 count. pic.twitter.com/D0BPMEsZek— Baseball GIFs (@gifs_baseball) March 23, 2021
Hilariously enough, Acuña has finished the day with a .176 batting average with an OPS of .822 so far during this spring. He hasn’t been getting a bushel of hits this spring but when he does get a hold of one, it’s loud and it’s likely going clear over a fence. Of course, spring training stats should always be taken with a grain of salt and that doesn’t necessarily mean that Ronald Acuña is going to suddenly turn into Venezuelan Adam Dunn. Still, this early power surge could end up being a sign of things to come once the regular season gets underway. If you don’t believe me, then listen to Atlanta’s hitting coach excitedly talking about the work that Acuña has been putting in so far:
Despite his slow start this spring, the #Braves think Acuna is heading for his best year yet.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) March 23, 2021
He's made some swing changes that "we're real excited about," their hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer told me. "He's getting to pitches he used to foul off & putting them in play hard now." https://t.co/uIwHn6Sz4L
Acuña’s dinger wasn’t the only one for the Braves on the day. Ehire Adrianza’s name popped up yet again, as he sent a pitch flying over the right-center field fence in the eighth inning and Jake Lamb sent one careening off of the batter’s eye in center field in the seventh frame. The homers were welcome sights for both guys trying to make the team, but especially for Lamb since he played a big role in making the mess that the Braves found themselves in after the top of the third inning.
At that point in the game, Huascar Ynoa was having a pretty decent day. He had gotten through two scoreless innings and done so with little-to-no issue. Then Ynoa started off the third by issuing a walk, but figured that he’d get some help from his defense in getting out of this inning. The help didn’t come from Jake Lamb, who committed a throwing error that put two runners in scoring position for Boston. Even with the error, Ynoa was still an out away from limiting the damage to just those two runs after a single and a forceout. Unfortunately, Ynoa gave up a two-out single and then Xander Bogaerts picked a very bad time for the Braves to hit his first home run of spring training. The dinger made it 5-0 Red Sox at that time, and all five runs were unearned for Ynoa.
Xander Bogaerts is back. First homer of the spring for X pic.twitter.com/v4WUKQ9mvG— Jordan Moore (@iJordanMoore) March 23, 2021
Huascar Ynoa definitely wasn’t at his sharpest today, as he exited the game in the fifth inning after giving up a one-out single, a wild pitch to advance the runner, and then a walk to leave two runners on base as Sean Newcomb attempted to clean up the mess. The bases were indeed cleared, but only after J.D. Martinez welcomed Newcomb to the game with a double that brought in both runners and closed Ynoa’s line for the day. It was definitely an outing to forget for Ynoa, and maybe things would’ve only been slightly better if not for Jake Lamb’s error in the third.
Meanwhile, Sean Newcomb’s two strikeouts to end the fifth inning started a trend for the rest of the relievers who entered the game for the Braves. Josh Tomlin, Will Smith, and Tyler Matzek each pitched one scoreless inning and each of them tossed two strikeouts in the process. Will Smith in particular continued to be impressive, as he is looking determined to prove that his rough 2020 was an aberration instead of a sign of things to come. While spring training may not be the ultimate proving ground, it’s still encouraging to see Will Smith doing so well thus far in spring training.
With today's perfect inning, Will Smith has now struck out 11 of the past 16 batters faced.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 23, 2021
When it comes to the game, the Braves made an admirable effort at coming back to tie or even win the game in the late stages. The aforementioned homers in the seventh-and-eighth innings brought the Braves to within one run of the Red Sox, and actually had the winning run on second base after Abraham Almonte reached on an error and Pablo Sandoval smacked a double off the wall in left field. The stage was set for Ehire Adrianza to become a Grapefruit League legend, but he flew out to center field for the game’s final out. As far as spring games go, this one was a bit of a roller-coaster — there were plenty of peaks and valleys as far as the Braves were concerned. Still, any day where you get to see Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a majestic dinger is a good day.