By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuña Jr. was back in Atlanta’s lineup — and hustled his way to a seventh inning double — in Friday’s Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Acuña drew criticism from manager Brian Snitker and his teammates for his lack of hustle on a long fly ball in the seventh inning of the Cardinals’ 7-6 win in Game 1 on Thursday night. Still, Acuña had three hits, including a two-run homer, and he remains a key to Atlanta’s hopes in the series.
Snitker pulled Acuña out of a game after a similar lack of hustle by the outfielder on a long fly ball against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 18. Acuña was back in the lineup the following day.
Snitker said he had a “good conversation” with Acuña before Friday’s game.
“It’s not the first time, obviously. … I’m not going to give up on this kid,” Snitker said. “I mean, I’m going to go to the end of the Earth trying to help this guy.”
Acuña grounded out in the first inning, despite sprinting to first base, and struck out in the third and fifth innings. He doubled down the third-base line in the seventh, and he left no room for anyone to doubt his hustle on the play.
Acuña said after Thursday night’s game “I always try to give my best effort.”
Snitker said effort and hustle are the “two things that you can control in this game.”
Shortstop Dansby Swanson said players aren’t dwelling on Acuña’s mistake.
“We’re focused on this moment today,” he said. “And I think everybody understands the situation that happened — and how the thing’s been handled — and you move forward. That’s the way the best teams do it, the best organizations. And we’re no different.
“So we’ll just go out and play our game today and continue to focus on what’s happening right now.”
Brian McCann is Atlanta’s starting catcher for the second straight game, this time for right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.
The Cardinals have their same starting eight position players behind ace right-hander Jack Flaherty. Second baseman Kolten Wong and shortstop Paul DeJong swapped spots in the batting order, with Wong hitting sixth and DeJong seventh.