ATLANTA — Ronald Acuna Jr. and the Atlanta Braves put on quite a show for their first home crowd since 2019.
Acuna had four hits, including a long two-run homer that gave Atlanta the lead, and made a leaping catch to support Charlie Morton‘s six strong innings, leading the Braves to an 8-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.
Acuna’s fifth-inning blast off Zack Wheeler (1-1) traveled an estimated 456 feet, landing deep in the center-field seats behind the Braves bullpen for a 2-1 lead.
“That was probably one of the harder ones I’ve hit,” Acuna said through a translator.
Acuna also had two doubles and showed his speed by beating out an infield single in the eighth.
“That just shows the complete player that he is,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Morton (1-1) permitted one run and four hits. The veteran right-hander struck out seven and walked one.
“That was the best my curveball has felt and I felt really good throwing it,” Morton said.
Pinch hitter Ehire Adrianza connected for a three-run homer and Freddie Freeman added a two-run shot as Atlanta’s hitters shook off a slow start to the season. The Braves were held to a combined three runs while being swept in a three-game series at Philadelphia last week to open the season.
Leading 3-1, Morton escaped the sixth inning with runners on first and third when Acuna made a leaping catch of Alec Bohm‘s drive at the warning track in right field.
Morton, 37, won his first home start with Atlanta since his 2008 rookie season. He returned to Atlanta as a free agent following 12 seasons with Pittsburgh, Houston and Tampa Bay.
Adrianza was reinstated from the restricted list before the game. His homer off Brandon Kintzler in the sixth drove in Austin Riley and Cristian Pache, who reached on errors by Bohm at third base. Freeman’s homer off David Hale in the eighth pushed the lead to 8-1.
Wheeler, who threw 94 pitches, allowed three runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Andrew McCutchen‘s run-scoring single in the third gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead.
The Braves won their home opener before a crowd of 14,302 as fans returned after being kept away during the pandemic in 2020. The Braves are allowing about one-third of the seats at Truist Park to be used in their first homestand. They plan to expand that to 50% in their next homestand.
Braves: RHP Chris Martin may be available on Saturday after working out before the game. Martin left a relief appearance Sunday at Philadelphia with what Snitker described Friday as “nerve stuff in his fingers” that caused numbness. Martin is expected to work as one of Atlanta’s key late-game relievers. … Infielder Johan Camargo was optioned to the Braves’ alternate training site with Adrianza’s return.
GIRARDI MAKES MISTAKE
Phillies manager Joe Girardi then made came out to the mound. Though pitching coach Caleb Cotham was out for a chat with Wheeler minutes earlier, Girardi didn’t realize it marked the second mound visit of the inning and Wheeler had to be removed. Girardi turned to head back to the dugout before being called back to the mound by the umpires to make the mandatory pitching change.
“I screwed up,” Girardi said. “I was worrying about his pitch count and how he’s worked and I screwed up.”
Wheeler took the mistake in stride.
“Those mistakes happen,” Wheeler said. “It’s human.”
REMEMBERING AARON, NIEKRO
The Braves wore their 1974 uniforms to honor late Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Hank Aaron. The numbers 35 and 44 are stitched on the back of the Braves’ caps this season to honor Niekro and Aaron, respectively. Aaron’s 44 was painted on the outfield grass.
BRAVES BUY EDGAR SANTANA
Right-hander Edgar Santana also was optioned to Atlanta’s alternate training site after he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations. Santana, 29, was designated for assignment by Pittsburgh on Monday.
Santana last pitched in the majors in 2018, when he was 3-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 69 games with the Pirates. He missed the 2019 season following Tommy John surgery and was suspended 80 games in 2020, which covered the abbreviated season, after testing positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance.
Atlanta’s Ian Anderson (0-0, 1.80 ERA) will face Philadelphia’s Zach Eflin (0-0, 1.29 ERA) in a rematch of right-handers when the three-game series continues Saturday night. Eflin allowed one run in seven innings in the Phillies’ 2-1 home win over Anderson and the Braves on Sunday.