Carlos Martínez upset with how Ronald Acuña Jr. circles bases during ninth-inning homer

Bill Baer

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. aggravated his own team by not running hard on what turned out to be a long single to right field in the seventh inning of Thursday night’s opening game of the NLDS against the Cardinals. Two innings later, he would aggravate the opposing team.

In the ninth inning, with the Braves trailing 7-3, Acuña crushed a two-run home run to left-center field off of Carlos Martínez. Acuña could certainly watch this one, as it was measured by Statcast at 455 feet. He celebrated as he rounded the bases, motioning back at the Braves’ dugout with his teammates fired up about the comeback potential.

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Per MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, Martínez wasn’t happy about the way Acuña rounded the bases. He was so flustered, catcher Yadier Molina had to come out to the mound to calm him down. Martínez would give up another long home run to Freddie Freeman, a 460-foot solo shot to straightaway center field, before buckling down to get the final two outs of the game to preserve the 7-6 victory for the Cardinals.

After the game, Martínez said, “I wanted him to respect the game and respect me as a veteran player.”

I get it — it’s a tense playoff game and everyone’s watching. Martínez’s ego was probably bruised from giving up the no-doubt homer. But for Martínez, of all people, to complain about showboating, that’s rich. Martínez is one of the game’s flashier pitchers. Fox Sports Midwest did a whole segment on how Martínez keeps his teammates “light,” celebrating home runs by splashing water in their faces.

Martínez was a welcome change from the Cardinals’ old, traditionalist ways. They ran the phrase “play the game the right way” into the ground so hard it could only be used ironically. The Cardinals needed Martínez’s exuberance, which is why it’s all the more disappointing to see him go down the well-worn path of “respect the game.”

In a way, the Braves and Cardinals matching up against each other is perfect. No two teams have embodied “baseball fun police” as much as they have over the last decade or so.

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