On Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Division Series by a 7-6 final. Because the game was decided by a single run, the Braves and their fans will spend the next day brooding over missed opportunities and unforced errors -- including Ronald Acuna Jr. being held to a single on a ball hit deep to right field.
Watch said play below:
To walk through what happened:
- Acuna hit a towering fly to right during the bottom of the seventh inning with the Braves ahead by a 3-1 margin.
- Acuna clearly thought the ball was going to carry into the stands, as he hopped out of the box and then jogged with his bat in his hands before realizing he'd misjudged the distance.
- Cardinals right fielder Dexter Fowler was able to return the ball to the infield in a hurry, and Acuna was limited to a single.
Those who pay attention to such things will recall that Freddie Freeman offered what amounted to tough love for Acuna following Thursday's loss:. Perhaps that's why first baseman
Freeman on Acuña not running out the ball off the RF wall: "it's frustrating. I think you have that conversation once. Kinda beat a dead horse if you keep having that same conversation over and over again. That can't happen in the Playoffs, can't happen in the regular season"— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) October 4, 2019
Second baseman Ozzie Albies also weighed in on Acuna's mistake:
Let's be clear: Acuna is an incredible talent and one of the best players in the NL. You don't threaten a 40-40 season without being a gifted player and a hard worker. Even so, these incidents aren't going to sit well with teammates, coaches or fans when they can be viewed in hindsight as plausible difference-makers.
For as much as hustle-related commentary tends to have questionable intent -- studies have found evidence of racial bias in how players are talked about -- on some occasions there is validity. This seems to be one of those cases. Watching a home run makes for a fun and cool aesthetic, but it needs to be a home run to avoid these kinds of conversations.
To wit, here's Acuna in the ninth inning:
See? Pretty fun and cool and it leaves nobody upset. Well, almost nobody:
The Cardinals weren't thrilled by how Ronald Acuña Jr. rounded the bases on his 9th inning homer, enough that Yadier Molina went to the mound to calm Carlos Martinez down afterwards.— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) October 4, 2019
Postgame, Martinez said: "I wanted him to respect the game & respect me as a veteran player."
Anyway, the whole thing is a fine line and results-based. A few more feet of flight would've made all the difference. But then, Acuna's long single left Braves fans wondering if 90 more feet on foot could've, too.