Acuña yanked, Ortega slam lead Braves over Dodgers 5-3
ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuña Jr. says he had never before failed to hustle out of the batter’s box.
Braves manager Brian Snitker made a bold move to make sure it never happens again with the 21-year-old All-Star outfielder.
With Acuña banished for styling instead of sprinting, Rafael Ortega stepped up with a sixth-inning grand slam that lifted Atlanta to a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.
Acuña was pulled before the fifth inning after failing to run out a drive to right field in the third. The ball bounced off the wall for a long single — Acuña almost certainly would have had an easy double if he had hustled from home plate.
“He didn’t run. You’ve got to run,” Snitker said. “It’s not going to be acceptable here. As a teammate you’re responsible for 24 other guys. That name on the front is a lot more important than the name on the back of that jersey. You can’t do that. We’re trying to accomplish something and do something special here and personal things have got to be put on the backburner. You just can’t let your team down like that.”
Snitker followed Acuña into the tunnel for a conversation during the fourth inning before Adam Duvall entered the game in left field in the fifth, with Ortega moving from left to center.
Snitker said he made an immediate decision to pull Acuña out of the game but waited one inning so Duvall would have time to warm up.
“That was the decision the manager took and I respect his decision,” Acuña said through a translator, adding his lack of hustle “was unintentional.”
Acuña said he “obviously wasn’t thinking and that was the action I took. ... It’s never happened before.”
Snitker said there will be no impact on Acuña’s starting job.
The move by Snitker came with Atlanta trailing 3-1 in a high-spotlight game — a 2018 playoff rematch and the decisive game of a three-game series between the teams with the National League’s best records.
Acuña is hitting .296 with 35 home runs and 85 RBIs, and leads the NL with 29 stolen bases and 104 runs scored.
Ortega, recalled from the minors on Tuesday, made the most of only his second start with the Braves with his first career grand slam off Dustin May.
“I was just trying to just focus on trying to make good contact with the ball,” Ortega said through a translator.
May (1-2) couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead. May walked Brian McCann, gave up a single to Matt Joyce and hit Adeiny Hechavarría with a pitch to load the bases. Ortega’s homer landed in the Braves’ bullpen.
May, adjusting to a new bullpen role, said he was “a little amped up, a little excited.”
“You still have to go out and execute,” he said. “I didn’t execute well today really on any pitch. Only room for improvement from here.”
Dodgers rookie Tony Gonsolin, recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City, allowed one run on five hits in four innings.
Braves left-hander Max Fried couldn’t extend his streak of wins in five straight starts. Fried lasted five innings despite giving up Cody Bellinger’s three-run homer in the first. Bellinger leads the majors with 42 homers.
Anthony Swarzak (3-3), Chris Martin, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon combined for four scoreless innings. Melancon pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.
Acuña briefly had Bellinger’s ball in his glove as he reached over the center field wall. The homer, which followed singles by Justin Turner and Will Smith, fell out of Acuña’s glove when his wrist hit the top of the wall. Acuña’s disappointment showed when he tossed his glove to the warning track while Bellinger ran around the bases.
Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, who has missed 24 games with a right foot contusion, fielded groundballs for the second straight day before running and participating in agility drills.
STILL NO 30-30
Fried doubled off the right-field wall to lead off the third. After Acuña followed with his long single, he was thrown out by rookie catcher Will Smith when trying to steal second. Acuña is still one steal away from a 30-30 season.
Jedd Gyorko (lower back strain) was activated from the 60-day injured list to start at first base in his Dodgers debut. Gyorko was on the IL when he was acquired from St. Louis on July 31. To clear spots for Gonsolin and Gyorko, the Dodgers optioned right-hander Josh Sborz and infielder Edwin Ríos to Oklahoma City.
FAITH IN MAY
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he is still confident in May as a reliever. “This is a learning process,” Roberts said. “My faith, my confidence in Dustin hasn’t wavered and Dustin is absolutely going to be more than fine.”
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (12-2, 2.63) will make only his second career start against Toronto when the Dodgers open a three-game home series against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.
Braves: Following an off day on Monday, LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-5, 4.39) will make his third start of the season against Miami when the Braves open a three-game series against the Marlins on Tuesday night.
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