The Cardinals are mad at Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. for how he ran the bases in Game 1 Thursday night. You can probably guess, that’s some musty “play the right way” bullcrap. But it turns out Acuña’s own teammates are mad at him over a completely different baserunning issue, and when your teammates are angry about your baserunning after a one-run playoff loss, that is a pretty good sign that you really screwed up.
Acuña had a very good game. He went 3-for-5 at the plate, with a double and a humongous two-run dinger, plus a walk and two RBI. But he also left an extra base untaken on a roped shot to the wall in right field to lead off the seventh inning, when the Braves were up two runs and looking for some breathing room. Acuña took two big Sammy Sosa hops out of the box and then trotted up the line to first, presumably because he thought the ball was a goner. When it was not a goner, and Dexter Fowler played it well off the carom, Acuña was stuck with a 325-foot single.
This wound up mattering, and then it wound up really mattering. Acuña moved to second on a slow grounder on the right side of the infield, and then was doubled off second to end the inning following a liner off the bat of Josh Donaldson. Had Acuña run out of the box on his hit and gotten the double, the Ozzie Albies grounder would’ve moved him to third, and it’s unlikely the Donaldson liner would’ve caught him in the lurch like it did at second. There’s no knowing if he would’ve come around to score, but in a game that was ultimately decided by a single run, that seventh inning sequence stands out as an opportunity squandered.
Acuña’s teammates agree. Freddie Freeman described the play as “frustrating,” and said it can’t happen in the regular season, let alone in the playoffs. Albies felt the mistake was “a big deal.” Manager Brian Snitker, who yanked Acuña from a game back in August over a similar baserunning issue, was disturbed to see this issue rear its ugly head in such a big game. Per ESPN:
“He should have been on second. And we’re kind of shorthanded to do anything about it right there. You hate to see that happen.”
Acuña said after the game that he would go back do things differently if he could, that he “would’ve loved to have a double” in that spot, if he had a do-over. That bit of time travel would get him out of hot water with teammates, but it would not solve the red-assedness of his opponents, who were pissed at Acuña not for costing his team an extra base, but for rounding the bases too slowly following his towering 455-foot ninth-inning dinger. Pitcher Carlos Martinez felt that Acuña was not playing the right way, which is just the most Cardinals thing there is: