The Atlanta Braves were part of the biggest story in baseball Wednesday when rookie outfielder Ronald Acuña was hit by the first pitch from Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Ureña. Once the game had ended, several Braves players and manager Brian Snitker shared their reaction to what went down.
Snitker led the charge out of the dugout when Acuña was hit in the left elbow, and the manager was ejected after returning to the field for a second time to argue with the umpires. Several hours after it happened, Snitker was still highly emotional when discussing the situation.
“I think it’s pretty evident what I thought about it,” Snitker said, via the AJC’s Gabe Burns. “That’s a shame. This young man is just playing the game, doing what he loves to do. It’s a damn shame what happened that first pitch of the game.
“If you don’t want him to hit your fastball, throw a breaking ball. There are ways to get the kid out. You throw fastballs down the middle and he hits them out. What do you expect the kid to do? My God. That was just completely, unbelievably uncalled for.”
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Snitker brought up the worst-case scenario with a player from the Marlins, which are 22 games out first place in the NL East, intentionally hitting a key player from the division-leading team.
“What happens if they hit him there and he breaks his elbow, and he’s done for the year?” Snitker said, per Burns. “With what we’re trying to accomplish here, where we’re at, there’s no reason for that. Heck, this is a game. My God.”
Snitker appeared to get teary eyed when discussing his immediate reaction to Acuna getting hit.
“He’s my kid,” Snitker said, according to Burns. “I’m going to protect him.”
Acuna’s teammates were just as passionate when talking about what happened.
First baseman Freddie Freeman was highly critical of Urena and made it evident he believed what happened was intentional.
“It was gutless,” Freeman said. “I know that wasn’t the Marlins. That was just Jose Urena. I don’t understand it. It makes no sense. Just because a player’s having fun playing the game, swinging the bat incredibly well obviously, it makes no sense. That was completely classless on Jose Urena’s part.
“(Acuna is) playing the game the right way. He’s having fun. He’s done nothing wrong in his four months in the big leagues. He’s brought joy to this game. Everybody loves watching him play. People are paying just to come watch this kid play. For what he did tonight is not right.”
Many expected Braves starting pitcher Kevin Gausman to retaliate, but Snitker told the coaches and players about how detrimental such tactics would be for the divisional race. Gausman handled his business on the mound to the tune of two earned runs over six innings then later shared his displeasure over what happened.
“Obviously, (Acuna’s) been doing pretty well against them,” Gausman said, per Burns. “I think (Urena) decided he was going to handle it a certain way. I don’t agree with it, but it’s his career and he’s going to have to deal with the consequences.”
Gausman’s work on the mound kept the Braves in contention after the emotional start to the game, but it was shortstop Dansby Swanson who was ultimately the hero.
With the Braves trailing 2-1, Swanson hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning to give Atlanta its first lead. In the sixth, Swanson added a sacrifice fly to help the Braves take a 5-2 victory.
After the home run, Swanson bumped his chest twice, placed a finger on his lip then pointed to a sky, a celebration Swanson shares with Acuna.
“Everyone knows the emotions and reactions,” Swanson said, according to Burns. “You go into protect mode because that’s family. I think everyone’s able to see that. What I was most proud of was the ability to bounce back after and keep our composure.”