PHOENIX (AP) — Ronald Acuna Jr. made an auspicious return to the leadoff spot Friday night, driving a career-best 466-foot homer to lift the Atlanta Braves past Arizona.
Acuna’s tiebreaking shot off the batter’s eye in center with two outs in the eighth inning helped the Braves end a four-game skid with a 2-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.
When did he know it was gone?
“Right away,” Acuna said via translator with a smile.
After hitting cleanup in each of his previous 36 starts this season, Acuna returned to the top of the order — his regular place while winning NL Rookie of the Year last season — and hit his eighth homer off Yoan Lopez (0-1).
“I’m going to feel good no matter where they put me in the lineup,” Acuna said.” I’m just happy to be in the lineup. For me, it is just about focusing and getting the work done.”
Acuna has homers in two of his last three games after making a slight adjustment in the Dodgers’ series earlier this week. He hit a 2-0 fastball from Lopez, who has been scored on in only four of his 29 appearances but three times in four outings against Atlanta.
“You can’t fall behind a good hitter like Acuna,” Lopez said through a translator. “The Braves have been the only team that has been able to get to me, but it is all part of the process.”
“I don’t want to jinx things, but he is swinging the bat better,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said.
The Braves got a good outing from Julio Teheran to overcome Zack Greinke’s latest strong start. Greinke allowed a run and five hits over seven innings, posting his eighth straight quality start. He didn’t walk a batter and reached a three-ball count against only two hitters — the last two he faced while escaping a two-on jam in the seventh.
Teheran pitched six innings of one-run ball, Dan Winkler (1-0) pitched the seventh and Luke Jackson struck out two in ninth for his third save after blowing one in the first game of the series Thursday.
Teheran gave up three hits, struck out four and walked two. He has given up one run in his last two starts without getting a decision.
“I just wish we could get some runs,” Snitker said.
Dansby Swanson had three hits, and Freddie Freeman had two hits for Atlanta.
David Peralta had two hits, including an RBI triple, for Arizona.
Swanson tripled to right-center with one out in the fourth inning and scored on Freeman’s single over the shift for a 1-0 lead.
Ketel Marte doubled off the left field fence with two outs in the sixth and scored on Peralta’s triple over the first base bag to tie it at 1, ending Teheran’s steak of scoreless innings at 12.
“It’s unfortunate when you get a night like we did out of Zack and you can’t really capitalize offensively,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.
Braves: LHP Max Fried (left hand contusion) is expected to start Sunday after reporting no discomfort after a bullpen session Thursday. Fried was struck by a line drive and removed in the second inning of his last start at the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.
Diamondbacks: RHP Taijuan Walker (elbow ligament) threw 23 pitches in a bullpen session Friday and is likely to throw another bullpen session Sunday before pitching in a rehab game. ... C Alex Avila (quadriceps strain) did all the normal pregame work and blocked balls in the dirt Friday and is close to returning. Avila, out since April 7, may not need a rehab assignment, Lovullo said. ... 1B/3B Jake Lamb (quadriceps strain) did some light running and took ground balls Friday while continuing to hit. Lamb will play first and third when he returns, Lovullo said, but is not expected back on the homestead that ends May 19. ... INF Ildemaro Vargas was optioned to Triple-A after the game. A corresponding move is expected Saturday.
Braves: RHP Kevin Gausman (1-3), who was ejected and given a five-game suspension for throwing a pitch behind Miami’s Jose Urena on May 3, will make his second start while his suspension is under appeal. Gausman has given up 14 earned runs in his last 16 1/3 innings.
Diamondbacks: RHP Merrill Kelly (3-3) gave up a season-high seven runs in four innings in his last start Monday at Tampa Bay. He had given up as many as four runs only once previously.