ATLANTA (AP) – With All-Star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. banished for his lack of hustle, Rafael Ortega stepped up with a sixth-inning grand slam to lift the Atlanta Braves to a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.
Acuña was pulled before the fifth inning after failing to run out a drive off the right field wall in the third. The ball bounced off the wall for a long single. The 21-year-old Acuña likely would have had an easy double if he had hustled from home plate.
Manager Brian Snitker followed Acuña into the tunnel for an apparent conversation during the fourth inning before Adam Duvall entered the game in left field in the fifth, with Ortega moving from left to center field.
The move by Snitker came in a high-spotlight game – a 2018 playoff rematch and the decisive game of a three-game series between the teams with the National League’s best records.
Acuña is hitting .296 with 35 home runs and 85 RBIs, and leads the NL with 29 stolen bases and 104 runs scored.
Ortega, recalled from the minors on Tuesday, made the most of only his second start with the Braves with his first career grand slam off Dustin May.
May (1-2) couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead. May walked Brian McCann, gave up a single to Matt Joyce and hit Adeiny Hechavarría with a pitch to load the bases before giving up Ortega’s homer into the Braves’ bullpen.
Dodgers rookie Tony Gonsolin, recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City, allowed one run on five hits in four innings.
Braves left-hander Max Fried couldn’t extend his streak of wins in five straight starts. Fried lasted five innings despite giving up Cody Bellinger’s three-run homer in the first. Bellinger leads the majors with 42 homers.
Anthony Swarzak (3-3), Chris Martin, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon combined for four scoreless innings of relief. Melancon pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.
Acuña briefly had Bellinger’s ball in his glove as he reached over the center field wall. The homer, which followed singles by Justin Turner and Will Smith, fell over the wall when Acuña’s wrist hit the top of the wall. Acuña’s disappointment showed when he tossed his glove to the warning track while Bellinger ran around the bases.
Fried doubled off the right-field wall to lead off the third. Acuña followed with a similar drive, but instead of hustling he admired the high flyball and then had to settle for a long single when it also bounced off the wall. Acuña was thrown out by rookie catcher Will Smith when trying to steal second, leaving Acuña still one steal away from a 30-30 season.