ST. LOUIS (AP) — Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a three-run homer Monday night, leading the Atlanta Braves to an 8-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Acuña, who was an All-Star selection last season, finished with a 3-for-4 night with a double and a single. He also drew a walk and scored two runs.
Injuries slowed Acuña in 2021 and 2022. He endured a torn ACL, a left foot injury and a groin injury.
“I’m 100 percent healthy this year,” Acuña said through a translator. “It’s completely different. I’m not battling any pain.”
Ozzie Albies smacked a two-run homer and Austin Riley added a solo shot in the Braves’ 10-hit attack. Atlanta has won three of its first four games this season.
Riley homered to left field in the first inning. It went 473 feet, the longest of his career, fourth longest in Busch Stadium and second longest by an opponent.
“That was a long one,” Snitker said. “That was a big man hitting it a long ways there.”
It also was the first home run allowed this season by a St. Louis pitcher.
“You don’t feel it coming off the bat,” Riley said. “I just took my jog and came back to the dugout. I actually had to come back and watch film to see it. I did like it.”
Paul Goldschmidt, the 2022 NL MVP, hit his first home run of the season along with a single in four at-bats. He hit 35 homers last season for St. Louis. Nolan Arenado, Nolan Gorman and Tyler O’Neill each had two hits.
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St. Louis recorded 12 hits and stranded 11 runners against four Braves pitchers.
“Obviously you want to drive in as many as you can,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “I like where we’re at. We never felt out of it in the game. We’re taking tough at-bats. Did we leave guys? Yes. But you’ve got to get on base.”
Charlie Morton (1-0) pitched 5 1/3 innings to notch the win. The 39-year-old Morton scattered nine hits in giving up three runs. He walked two with one strikeout in his 21st career start against St. Louis. He is 4-12 lifetime against the Cardinals.
“I thought he was really good,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said about Morton. “I love the fact he got into the sixth inning. It’s not an easy lineup to navigate. ”
Jake Woodford (0-1) suffered his first loss in three career decisions to the Braves. Woodford, drawing his first career start in the month of April, pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits, including three home runs. He walked three and registered three strikeouts.
“What gives Woody success is being successful in the bottom of the zone,” Marmol said. “He left two four-seamers up in the top of the zone and he had a slider that didn’t do a whole lot for another homer.”
Woodford allowed three home runs all of last season (91 1/3 IP). Against the Braves, he allowed three home runs before he completed the second inning of his season.
“I got burned on some pitches that were up and I hung a slider,” Woodford said. “I’ve got to make adjustments quicker. I didn’t minimize damage the way I needed to. It just comes down to execution. I’ve got to bear down. There’s definitely some things to work on.”
The Cardinals tied the game when Alec Burleson scored on a fielder’s choice in the first inning.
The Braves scored five runs on two home runs in the second, sending nine men to bat. With a runner on base, Albies homered to right. Acuña extended the Atlanta lead to 6-1 with a three-run homer to center field.
“I was just trying to get on base and it went out,” Acuña said laughing. “Last year, I’d have similar swings and it wouldn’t go out or get the result I wanted. I go up to hit. When I’m hitting, I’m not thinking. It’s see the ball, hit the ball.”
St. Louis narrowed the lead to 6-3 in the fourth on an RBI single by rookie Jordan Walker and a ground out by Brendan Donovan.
Atlanta got two runs back in the seventh off reliever Jordan Hicks.
Matt Olson drove in a run with a single and Travis D’Arnaud hit a run-scoring double off Hicks.
Goldschmidt hit a 3-1 fastball to center field in the seventh off reliever Nick Anderson, cutting the Braves lead to 8-4.
Braves: Selected the contract of LHP Dylan Dodd to Atlanta and optioned LHP Jared Shuster to Triple-A Gwinnett. … To make room on the 40-man roster, Atlanta designated OF Jordan Luplow for assignment.
Cardinals: OF Lars Nootbaar (left thumb contusion) was placed on the 10-day IR. Nootbaar has been out with a jammed left thumb from a slide at third base on Thursday. St. Louis recalled INF/OF Juan Yepez from Triple-A Memphis.
BRAVES TO RETIRE JONES’ NUMBER
Atlanta announced Monday it will retire No. 25, worn by Braves outfielder Andruw Jones. The special number retirement ceremony to honor Jones will be held Sept. 9, before a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his 12 seasons with the Braves, Jones won 10 straight Gold Glove Awards and was voted to the All-Star Team five times. Jones finished his Major League career with 1,933 hits, 1,289 RBIs and 434 home runs. He was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2016.
Braves: RHP Max Fried (left hamstring strain) had been lined up to start Wednesday’s game but will miss that start. He is likely headed to the injured list.
Cardinals: RHP Giovanny Gallegos (lower back stiffness) didn’t play in his fourth straight game. He remains listed as day to day. UP NEXT
Braves: LHP Dylan Dodd (MLB debut) will be the second Atlanta rookie left-hander to make his debut in the team’s first five games. Dodd grew up 172 miles from Busch Stadium in Danville, Illinois.
Cardinals: LHP Steven Matz (5-3, 5.25 in 2022) pitched in just 15 games with 10 starts in 2022. He didn’t face the Braves last year but he has a 3.42 ERA in 79 innings in his career against Atlanta