The visual diagnosis after watching two too many replays of Ronald Acuna’s left leg folding up on itself Sunday was grim. You looked, you winced, and you imagined Dr. James Andrews sharpening his scalpel on a razor strop.
Acuna himself was suffering much the same reaction as every Braves fan at the time.
“Right after, I felt dizzy, nauseous,” Acuna said.
But word arrived on Monday that Acuna’s ligaments were strained, not ripped apart like ribbons at Christmas. The Braves precious outfielder was bruised, not broken, and placed on the lesser of the disabled lists.
“To be honest I feel better than I did yesterday,” he said late afternoon Monday. “Thanks to God it wasn’t worse than it was.”
“I thought his season was over when it happened and when I went out there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Monday. “Now I’m very optimistic.”
As inspirational messages go, this one finished well behind the Braves Memorial Day tribute that sounded just the perfect note before the start of Monday’s doubleheader against the Mets. Still, it was heartening.
Then the team followed up with a walk-off home run by Charlie Culberson in Game One vs. New York. Yes, Charlie Culberson, whose homer elevated his season’s average to .218. Going into the evening session, the Braves had just won back-to-back games started by the formidable combination of Boston’s Chris Sale and the Mets Jacob deGrom.
Didn’t all that kiss the boo-boo and make it all better?
Injury, of course, is the one certain way to muddy up the Braves cute little reclamation story. This team is just deep enough to make a nuisance of itself from here to the finish, with little talent to spare. And it apparently isn’t in the mood to go on any shopping sprees to buy or trade for mid-season reinforcement. They probably won’t try to get Matt Kemp back. The biggest splashes have already been made.
The Acuna Watch was a vivid reminder of how many things will have to go right for the Braves for them to contend to the end. A charmed season will require an injury report that reads brief and fantastic. And Monday was a unicorn of an entry.
Covering these guys in bubblewrap is bound to really cut down on their range, but it might not be such a bad idea.
So, Braves, nobody else twist, turn or otherwise take an awkward step for another four months. Is that too much to ask?
Everyone drive 10 mph below the posted speed limit, eat shellfish only in months with an “r,” and make sure those shower shoes are clean. Can’t afford so much as a minor case of athlete’s foot.
Acuna can well tolerate a brief break in this long season, so long as his wheels – big among his many tools – heal on the same accelerated schedule he has kept throughout his brief career. He’s had but three extra base hits the last two weeks, has gotten a belly full of Major League pitching, befriended the strikeout and tasted the first bitter dregs of a slump.
A few days around the Memorial holiday to take a deep breath isn’t the worst that can happen.
The Braves somehow carried on without him. And once the Acuna Watch was settled, another topic worth study was revealing itself.
Beginning their longest home stand thus far this season, would the Braves make proper use of it? They have been somewhat less robust at SunTrust – 11-9 (.550) entering Monday’s doubleheader than on the road – 19-12 (.613). Just another quirk in a season that is sure to be filled with them.
Time for the Braves to express a little home-field dominance, first against a team that actually required Jose Bautista more than themselves.
Not a bad start in the daylight of Monday, when all the news was befitting a team intent upon making the summer interesting.