Ronald Acuña Jr. managed to single-handedly plunge Atlanta Braves fans into a state of cognitive dissonance Thursday.
Did his indefensible lack of hustle in a key moment potentially cost his team Game 1 of its NL Division Series matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals, or did his spectacular game give the Braves a chance to win in the first place?
It’s not often that fans and even teammates criticize a player after he bats 3 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs, but Acuña also isn’t a typical player.
The controversial play came in the bottom of the seventh inning at SunTrust Park, with the Braves winning 3-1. Acuña ripped a deep shot to right field that he thought was going to be a home run.
As Acuña hopped and trotted his way to first base, with bat in hand, the ball clunked off the outfield wall.
He tried to turn on the jets, but it was too little, too late.
He’d just hit a 331-foot single.
Ronald Acuña Jr.’s average home to 1st time this season was 4.2 seconds.
It was 6.2 seconds here. A 331-foot single.
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) October 4, 2019
Instead of putting himself in scoring position with no outs, Acuña was left standing on first and was eventually caught up in an inning-ending double play. The Braves would go on to lose 7-6.
To be clear, there is no guarantee that Acuña would have scored even if he had run hard and picked up the double, but he certainly would have had a chance.
After the game, teammates expressed their frustration with the second-year phenom.
“It’s frustrating, but I think you have that conversation once … you kind of beat the dead horse if you keep having that same conversation over and over again,” All-star first baseman Freddie Freeman told reporters after the game.
Freddie Freeman on Ronald Acuna not hustling out of the box…
“You have that conversation once.. it’s kind of like beating a dead horse” pic.twitter.com/cx9pgPpPLL
— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) October 4, 2019
Acuña has had similar incidents in the past, most recently in an August game against the Los Angeles Dodgers that led to him being benched.
Second baseman Ozzie Albies also took issue with Acuña’s lack of hustle.
“He probably scores in that inning if he’s on second base,” Albies said, according to ESPN. “It’s a big deal. He knows he needs to do better there.”
For his part, Acuña expressed some tepid remorse after the game.
“These things happen, it’s baseball. Those are the kind of things that happen,” he said through a translator.
“I always try to give my best effort, and those are the kind of things that get away from me,” he added.
— Alison Mastrangelo (@AlisonWSB) October 4, 2019
Of course, whatever your opinion is on Acuña’s chronic hustling deficiency, it would be absurd to place the bulk of the blame for the loss on him. The Braves’ bullpen imploded in the game’s final innings, giving up two runs in the eighth and four in the ninth.
Atlanta will try to even the series Friday in Game 2.
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