ATLANTA — Ronald Acuna Jr. was the star attraction in his first game back with the Braves since tearing his ACL on July 10, 2021.
Acuna went 1-for-5 with two stolen bases in his return to the Braves’ lineup, while Kyle Wright turned in another stellar performance, giving Atlanta its first series win of the season with a 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night.
Wearing sparkly, gold-topped cleats with matching armbands and batting gloves, Acuna grounded out twice, struck out twice and punched an opposite-field single to right in his first big league game since suffering his season-ending knee injury against Miami.
« I was just extremely excited, » he said through an interpreter. « I think the adrenaline level was at a maximum. Those first few at-bats, I couldn’t contain myself. »
A pair of stolen bases seemed to back up his pregame assessment that his reconstructed right knee actually made him faster than before he tore his ACL.
« Hopefully it’s just tip of the iceberg, » Acuna said.
He also showed off his defensive skills in right field. On Jason Heyward’s liner off the fence, Acuna played the carom perfectly and held the Cubs player to a single.
« It’s just the kind of play you anticipate, » Acuna said. « You know who’s hitting in that moment and how they can run. You just have to anticipate the play and react to it. It’s preparation. »
For now, the Braves say Acuna won’t play on travel days or in day games after night games. That would seem to rule him out for Friday night’s contest at Texas to start a three-game weekend series.
Not so fast, Acuna countered.
« I don’t know who said the plan is for me not to play, » he said, bursting into laughter. « The way I’m looking at it, I’m playing tomorrow. »
The Associated Press contributed to this story.