ATLANTA — There were a lot firsts Friday night at SunTrust Park. And most of them belonged the Ender Inciarte.
On the night the Braves christened their new stadium, Atlanta’s lead-off man assured that he’ll be the answer to several future trivia questions.Inciarte caught the first out of the game (on the first pitch of the game), then got the first hit, scored the first run and, to put an exclamation point on things, hit the stadium’s first home run in the sixth inning to pace the Braves to a 5-2 win over the Padres.
For good measure, he also caught the final out of the game.
Not a bad way to ring in a new stadium. Then again, he said he had a good feeling heading into the game.
“I’m just trying to put the right swing on the right pitch," Inciartesaid. "And I’ve been able to do it.”
Inciarte had been off to a slow start in 2017, but has turned it on in his past two games, going 4 for 8 with three homers and five RBIs.He insists he hasn't changed his approach at the plate, though he did say he's forced himself to adopt a more positive mindset because he can be hard on himself when things don't go well.
"The mind isa really strong thing in baseball," he said.
Whatever the approach, it seems to have worked. And though it's resulted in three homers in two games, Braves manager Brian Snitker isn't expecting a long-term power surge from his lead-off man.
“I don’t think he’s trying to hit homers,” Snitker said. “He’s getting pitches and not missing them. We don’t need him to start trying to hit homers; we want him to try to hit the ball hard.”
As a lead-off man goes, so often goes a team. For now, at least, Inciarte has found the stroke that produced a .351 on-base percentage last season and helped the Braves finish the season on a surprising run that saw them win 20 of their final 30 games.
In other words, he's a spark the Braves need to win.
"He’s carrying the team right now," said starting pitcher Julio Teheran, who earned the win Friday.
That Inciarte's latest heroics happened in the first game at SunTrust Parkmade the experience all the more rewarding. And don't think he wasn't aware of all those firsts as they happened. He even kissed the ball after he caught that first out.
"It's just a special night, not just for me but for the team," he said. "... It's just a special night that I'm going to be able to remember for a lot of days."