Associated Press September 3, 2023, 12:40 AM ET4 Minute Read
Ronald Acuna Jr. hits hardest home run of 2023 so far
Ronald Acuna Jr. hits this 121.2 MPH home run off the bat to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.
LOS ANGELES – Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a home run for the third straight game at Dodger Stadium and Orlando Arcia hit a three-run shot in the 10th inning to give the Atlanta Braves a 4-2 victory over LA on Saturday.
Acuña’s 454-footer to center field traveled like a rocket at an astonishing 121.2 miles per hour – the hardest-hit ball in the majors this year.
“I never thought that would be the exit velocity,” Acuña said through an interpreter. “But yeah, I hit it hard.”
Bryce Elder pitched six effective innings and the Braves (90-45) won their sixth straight game, becoming the first major league club to reach 90 wins this season.
Atlanta will look to win four games on Sunday in this highly anticipated matchup between the National League’s top two teams.
Acuña married before Thursday’s game north of Los Angeles, once again surpassing Dodgers star Mookie Betts in the hunt for NL MVP.
With one out in the third inning, Acuña launched a stunning drive that gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead. It was the 32nd home run of the year and the third in the series (including a grand slam) for Acuña, the first player in big league history with 30 home runs and 60 stolen bases in a season.
It was also the third-most hit home run and sixth-most hit ball in the majors since Statcast began tracking in 2015.
Acuña’s teammates joked with him in the dugout about his strength.
“They asked if that was all I had, and I said, ‘I think so,'” Acuña said.
Los Angeles evened the score in the bottom half of the third when Austin Barnes doubled on his bobblehead night and scored on Will Smith’s double-play grounder.
It stayed that way until the 10th, when Sean Murphy drew a two-out walk from Alex Vesia (0-5) to put two runners on. Arcia drove the next shot to left center, giving Atlanta a 4-1 lead.
“I feel like I always go out here and focus on every shot. And in those situations, I do everything I can to help the team win,” Arcia said through an interpreter.
When asked what he thought of Acuña’s homer, no translation was necessary.
“Unbelievable,” Arcia said.
Raisel Iglesias let Max Muncy’s sacrifice fly in the bottom half before finishing with his 28th save. Michael Tonkin (6-2) earned the win with a scoreless inning.
“You can’t take too much from it,” Muncy said. “When we play them in the postseason, it will be completely different games. I think we’ve proven that several times in the past against teams we’ve played against. It’s an exciting series right now. I know it’s a lot of fun for people to see, but ultimately it won’t be the same when it’s in the playoffs.
Betts went 0-for-4 with a walk and scored once. He struck out three times, including with the bases loaded in the fourth when he went down and looked.
Los Angeles starter Emmet Sheehan allowed one run in four innings.
Elder worked around four walks and struck out four for the Braves, who have won 20 of 25 overall. The NL East leaders have a seven-game lead over the NL West leaders Dodgers (83-52), making them the best record in the league.
“I thought my stuff was better than the last couple weeks,” Elder said. “I was a bit wild but was able to work my way out of some things. I would like to limit myself to a few walks. But I gave us a chance. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
The Braves have won at least 90 games in four of the last five full seasons, not counting the 60-game regular season that was shortened by the pandemic in 2020.
“That’s how we play really good baseball all year long,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “It was a solid year. Our mission is not over yet. I’m proud of the boys, how they play every day and how they prepare, the consistency of their work and the energy and everything they do. I haven’t achieved anything yet.”