<
>

Acuna 3rd player to hit 40 HRs at 21 or younger

ATLANTA -- Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves has become only the third player in baseball history to hit 40 homers in a season at 21 years old or younger.

Acuna's historic homer came with a flourish in the third inning of Atlanta's 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. He launched a 432-foot drive into the second deck at SunTrust Park, standing at home plate to admire his shot off Aaron Nola before tossing the bat away and slowly rounding the bases.

Acuna was pumped to join a very exclusive club, but even more thrilled about the Braves clinching at least a tie for first place in the National League East.

"That's the most exciting thing up to this point,'' Acuna said through a translator. "That's what we're all looking for. I think for all of us, it's just come out with that same energy, that same enthusiasm, get that win and hopefully celebrate. That's something we're all looking forward to."

Mel Ott, who was 20 when he hit 42 homers for the New York Giants in 1940, was the only player younger than Acuna to post a 40-homer season. Eddie Mathews also was 21 but about two months older than Acuna when he hit 47 homers for the Milwaukee Braves in 1953.

Ott and Mathews are both members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"It feels incredible,'' said Acuna, who was born Dec. 18, 1997. "To be compared to superstars and Hall of Famers like that, especially at such a young age, wow.''

The youngster had gone five games since hitting his 39th homer.

"He might relax now and really go off,'' manager Brian Snitker said. "That's an unbelievable accomplishment at this stage of his career.''

Acuna is still three stolen bases shy of another milestone. He has 37 steals in his quest to become just the fifth 40-40 player in baseball history, following Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Alfonso Soriano (2006).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.