Atlanta Braves third base coach Ron Washington comforts Ronald Acuna Jr. after taking a pitch in the third inning of Game 1 of the Division Series against the Marlins. (Michael Wyke)
Ronald Acuña Jr. made history with an opening home run to kick off the Atlanta Braves' NL Division Series against Miami.
And another pitch, once again from the Marlins, this time with a Sandy Alcantara fastball to the left hip, fired up the Braves and drove a comeback for a 9-5 victory Tuesday. Atlanta won again on Wednesday with a 2-0 shutout to move within one win of advancing to the National League Championship Series on Thursday.
But, on Tuesday, Acuña got things going for the Braves in the bottom of the first when he sent Alcantara's second pitch to right center field for a solo home run. The Venezuelan watched for a second before throwing his bat and rounding the bases to become the youngest player (22 years, 293 days old) in postseason history with a starting home run.
The atmosphere became tense in the third inning when Acuña was hit by a 98 mph fastball. The charismatic All-Star outfielder held the stake and walked a few steps toward the mound before the Braves umpires and coaches surrounded him and pulled him away from Alcantara, who had started walking toward him.
After a short delay, with much screeching from both dugouts, Acuña took his base. The referees warned the teams against further problems.
There have already been many hits: In 2018, when Acuña was a rookie and on a great home run streak, José Ureña hit him with a fastball on his first pitch.
He has become a Marlins target in recent years.
“I looked at his bank and said, 'It's been five times,'” Acuña said through a translator. “At this point, I think we've gotten used to it,” he added.
Alcantara insisted that he did not intend to hit Acuña and that Miami's game plan is to simply throw him inside, but added some swear words after the denial.
“If he's ready to fight, so am I,” Alcantara said.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said that while he didn't think the pitch was on purpose, the Marlins have hit Acuna too many times.
“You better be good at shooting inside the zone and not hitting after a home run,” Snitker said.
After the meeting, Acuña Jr. took to the networks to express that he will not apologize to anyone for his attitude after hitting a homerun.