Ronald Acuna Jr. has once again raised some eyebrows with his lack of hustle on the bases.
The Atlanta Braves outfielder led off the seventh inning of Game 1 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, mashing a long fly ball to the right-field corner that nearly turned into a home run. It should have been an easy double, but Acuna was slow to get up the line in anticipation of a round-tripper and instead ended up with a long single.
The slow trot came back to bite the Braves when the next hitter, Ozzie Albies, grounded out. Acuna advanced to second on the play but would have been 90 feet from scoring had he legged out for the double. He was then doubled off second when Josh Donaldson lined out to the shortstop to end a promising inning.
Acuna's gaffe came under the microscope a half-inning later when St. Louis tied the game. The Cardinals then scored four runs in the ninth to take the lead. Although Acuna homered late, St. Louis held on to take Game 1 by a score of 7-6.
This isn't the first time Acuna's hustle has been called into question. Manager Brian Snitker pulled the 21-year-old star from an August game after Acuna failed to run out a fly ball in a play similar to Thursday's miscue, saying at the time a lack of hustle was "not going to be acceptable here."
Snitker was visibly upset when asked about Thursday's incident, and suggested if he'd more bench players available - the Braves had used four of their six reserves prior to the seventh inning - he would have again removed Acuna.
"He should have been on second," Snitker said, according to FOX 5 Sports. "And (we) were kind of shorthanded to do anything about it right there. You hate to see that happen."
Some of Acuna's teammates openly expressed their anger with him after the loss.
"It's frustrating," first baseman Freddie Freeman said, according to Zach Klein of WSB-TV. "I think when you have that conversation once ... (you) kind of beat the dead horse if you keep having that same conversation over and over again. ... That can't happen in the playoffs. (It) can't happen in the regular season."
Albies was disappointed Acuna failed to take advantage of his groundout.
"It's a big deal," said Albies, according to 680 The Fan's Kevin McAlpin. "He knows he needs to do better there. He probably scores in that inning if he's at second base."
Acuna told reporters he was "focusing on giving his best effort" and had put the incident behind him, according to FOX Sports South.
"These things happen. It's baseball," he said. " ... Those things only happen to guys who are on the bench. You get benched for that. But those things happen."
Although his baserunning dominated postgame talk, Acuna did go 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two extra-base hits in the loss.