Rays lose a close pitching duel against Braves
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Ronald Acuna Jr. added another feat to his sensational rookie season.
The last player younger than the 20-year-old Acuna to go deep in a 1-0 game was the Chicago Cubs’ Phil Cavarretta against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 25, 1935, according to Baseball Reference. Cavarretta was 19 years old at the time.
Acuna’s third homer was a long one off Blake Snell in the third inning. The rookie adjusted to a low-inside breaking pitch and hit it high into the left-field seats.
“I was looking for a fastball,” Acuna said through a translator. “He’s got a great fastball and in that situation that’s what I was looking for. I was just trying to get that pitch and put a good swing on it.”
Acuna, who is batting .320 with six RBIs in his first 12 major league games, has impressed the Braves as much with his eye as with his bat.
“He sees the ball really early out of the pitchers’ hand, and that’s one of the things that good hitters do,” manager Brian Snitker said. “That ball was a strike and he hammered it.”
Sean Newcomb (3-1) allowed two singles in six innings and has thrown 13 scoreless innings over his last two starts for the Braves. Atlanta ended a three-game skid and won its sixth consecutive road game, including three consecutive road shutouts.
Four relievers pitched the final three innings for Atlanta, including Arodys Vizcaino, who earned his fifth save.
Snell (2-2) gave up one run and four hits while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings. It was his sixth straight start in which he has given up two runs or fewer.
“It’s my fault for going 3-2 on him,” Snell said of the home run pitch. “I think it would play out different if I’m ahead. It became 3-2, he made a good swing and made me pay for it.”
Newcomb gave up three walks while striking out six. He has a 1.78 ERA in his five road starts.
Rays catcher Wilson Ramos extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a broken-bat single off Vizcaino leading off the ninth, but Denard Span then lined into a double play with Mallex Smith pinch running for Ramos.
Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who had one of the hits off Newcomb, left the game in the eighth inning with a left eye contusion after lunging to catch a ball that landed behind the pitchers’ mound after caroming off a speaker above home plate. It bounced off the turf and struck Hechevarria just above the left eye. It was ruled a foul ball.
Former Braves left-hander Johnny Venters pitched the ninth for the Rays. He returned to the majors this season for the first time since pitching with Atlanta in 2012. His career was put in jeopardy by four major elbow surgeries, including three Tommy John operations.
The Rays became the first American League team since the 1953 St. Louis Browns to lose 12 of its first 33 games by one run. The Philadelphia Phillies were the last National League team to do it in 1994.
Braves: LHP Luiz Gohara, who started the season on the disabled list with a sprained left ankle and then made four minor league starts, was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. He will be used in the bullpen initially.
Rays: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (right elbow surgery) will make his second rehab start with Class A Charlotte against Fort Myers on Wednesday night. He will go two innings or 35 pitches. … The Rays did not evaluate Hechevarria’s status postgame, but the eye was swollen.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (2-1) will make his eighth start of the season Wednesday night and his first start ever against Tampa Bay.
Rays: LHP Ryan Yarbrough (2-1) will start after allowing one hit over five scoreless innings out of the bullpen Friday night against Toronto.