Atlanta Braves center fielder Ronald Ocuna Jr. once again failed to run out a ball he hit off the wall in right field, instead settling for a single, during the seventh inning of the Braves’ Game 1 National League Division Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.
Acuna, who did something similar back in August, failed to hustle down the line as he connected off of Cardinals’ reliever John Brebbia, a ball that Cardinals’ right fielder played off the wall just as Acuna was reaching first base.
While Acuna was benched back in August for his lack of hustle, this time his teammates are calling him out.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Braves star first baseman Freddie Freeman said, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. “But I think you have that conversation once. It’s kind of beating a dead horse after that if you keep having the same conversation over and over again. You have to know that was a mistake.”
Acuna didn’t offer much of an explanation for his lack of hustle, even in a critical playoff game.
“Things happen. Stuff like this doesn’t happen to the one who is sitting on the bench,” Acuna said, according to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas. “It could have been a double, but things happen. I didn’t speak with the manager about it. I just went out to enjoy the game. I always try to give my best, but these are things that sometimes get away from me. They are not things I want to do. As players, we always try to give our best effort, but we make mistakes, we are human.”
The gaffe looms large as the Braves dropped a one-run game, with many pointing out that the game could have turned out differently had Acuna hustled, stretching the single to a double.
“He probably scores in that inning if he’s on second base,” Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies said. “It’s a big deal. He knows he needs to do better there.”
“He should have been on second,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “And we’re kind of shorthanded to do anything about it right there. You hate to see that happen.”
“That can’t happen in the playoffs,” Braves’ Freddie Freeman said. “Can’t happen in the regular season. Unfortunately that happened tonight.”
Braves players didn’t say anything publicly that they didn’t address first hand with Acuna to start.
“A couple guys told him, ‘Yeah, just run out of the box,'” Albies stated. “It’s something you should do.
Acuna had a fantastic game, otherwise, but upset some Cardinals’ players with his ninth-inning home run.
“I simply want him to respect the game and respect me as a veteran player,” Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez told reporters. “That’s it. Just play the game.”
Acuna did say that if he were presented an opportunity to do the play over, he would.
“Absolutely,” Acuna said. “I mean, I was trying to give my best effort and those are those things that just kind of get away from you. So, obviously, I would’ve loved to have a double, if I could take it back.”
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